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2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year team honored at Kansas Statehouse

2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year team honored at Kansas Statehouse

2024 KTOY team members spent Jan. 22-24 in Topeka

Eight of the top educators in Kansas came to Topeka earlier this week to learn about and discuss education issues with education leaders; develop strategies for becoming effective communicators; and be recognized by the Kansas House and Senate, as well as the House and Senate Committees on Education.

The 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year (KTOY) team spent three days in the Capital City for the annual KTOY Legislative Conference, which is hosted by the Kansas State Department of Education’s Communications and Recognition Programs (CRP) team.

This year’s team is led by Taylor Bussinger, who was named the 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year in September. Bussinger is an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Prairie Trail Middle School, Olathe Unified School District 233.

“I think all of us feel pretty rejuvenated,” Bussinger said at the end of the conference. “I feel pretty excited, to be honest. I feel excited about the journey. I feel excited about what the message is that we have and spreading joy about the profession.”

Other 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year team members are Cherryl Delacruz, Topeka USD 501; Gretchen Elliot, Smoky Valley USD 400; Joanna Farmer, Wichita USD 259; Melissa Haney, Goddard USD 265; Erin Pittenger, Rock Creek USD 323; Michelle Tapko, Shawnee Mission USD 512; and Fonda Telthorst, Piper-Kansas City USD 203.

The conference got underway Monday afternoon at the Landon State Office Building. Team members had a conversation with three Kansas principals to get their perspectives on what major education issues schools in the state are facing. Principals in attendance were Dr. Todd Dain, principal of Shawnee Mission South High School, Shawnee Mission USD 512; Brandi Leggett, principal of Central Elementary School, Olathe USD 233; Daniel Pray, principal of Jackson Heights Elementary School, Jackson Heights USD 335.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson spent time getting to know the new team and discussing current education issues in Kansas.

Later in the afternoon, Dale Brungardt, director of KSDE’s School Finance, helped the KTOY team members prepare for their visit with Kansas legislators, discussing what they need to know about the Senate and House Committees on Education and what education issues committee members are considering this legislative session.

On Tuesday, KTOY team members continued the discussion of major education issues in Kansas, but this time, learned from the perspectives of superintendents. Dr. Tiffany Anderson of Topeka USD 501 and Jeff Travis of Beloit USD 273 took part in the discussion.

Bussinger said it was eye opening to him and some of the team to realize what’s happening in the state and how they can take that back to their buildings to better advocate for their fellow teachers and students.

“Getting to hear from principals and superintendents, and Dr. Randy Watson, I think was powerful and insightful for me because as teachers, a lot of times we’re kind of stuck in our classroom and we’re focused on what’s in front of us and what we’re doing,” Bussinger said. “So honestly, there’s some education issues that are happening statewide that I wasn’t aware of.”

Tuesday afternoon, Bussinger was presented the keys to a 2023 Nissan Sentra during a special ceremony near the south steps of the Kansas Statehouse. During the first half of his term as the 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year, Bussinger is expected to log more than 15,000 miles traveling across the state, working with future educators and presenting at conferences. He also will offer professional development workshops.

Team members spent Wednesday at the Statehouse where the team was recognized on the House and Senate floors. They each also presented to the Joint Committee of the House and Senate Education to provide a glimpse inside their classrooms.  Click here to view a recording of those presentations: http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20240124/-1/17632

Bussinger said the message the team hopes to communicate throughout this year is one of joy and passion for their profession.

“We want all educators to know that they matter to their students and communities,” he said. “There are thousands of amazing and dedicated teachers across Kansas who work relentlessly to inspire and support our young people. We hope to support and advocate for these educators.”

Posted: Jan 25, 2024,
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