KSDE Weekly

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Final two educators announced as 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year regional finalists

Eight of Kansas’ top educators will now vie for the title of 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year. 

The remaining two regional finalists were named Saturday, April 1, at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina. 

Erin Pittenger, an elementary teacher at St. George Elementary School, Rock Creek Unified School District 323, and Gretchen Elliott, an art teacher at Smoky Valley High School, Smoky Valley USD 400, were named Region 1 finalists. 

With that announcement, all eight regional finalists have been named. 

Region 2, 3 and 4 semifinalists and finalists were announced on March 25 and 26 at different venues across the state. 

The other six regional finalists are: 

  • Region 2: Fonda Telthorst, a music teacher at Piper Prairie Elementary School, Piper USD 203, and Cherryl Delacruz, a mathematics teacher at Highland Park High School, Topeka USD 501. 
  • Region 3: Taylor Bussinger, a social studies teacher at Prairie Trail Middle School, Olathe USD 233, and Michelle Tapko, a sixth-grade teacher at Roesland Elementary School, Shawnee Mission USD 512. 
  • Region 4: Melissa Haney, a science teacher at Explorer Elementary School, Goddard USD 265, and Joanna Farmer, an agriculture teacher at Southeast High School, Wichita USD 259. 

This year, 124 educators across the state were nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction. 

As finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction, the eight regional finalists each received a $2,000 cash award from Security Benefit, the major corporate partner for the Kansas Teacher of the Year program. In addition, they are each now eligible to be named Kansas Teacher of the Year, which will be announced during a ceremony Saturday, Sept. 23, in Wichita. 

Each of the semifinalists received a red marble apple with a wooden base, compliments of The Master Teacher in Manhattan. 

Posted: Apr 6, 2023,
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