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KSDE offers variety of recognition programs to honor educators, students and schools

Did you know the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) offers a variety of ways you can honor your peers, as well as students and your school?

KSDE’s Communications and Recognition Programs (CRP) team administers the following recognition programs for students:

  • Governor’s Scholars Recognition Program: This program honors the top academic 1% of Kansas high school seniors. Scholars are selected from accredited public and private schools in the state. The program is coordinated for the governor by the Confidence in Kansas Public Education Task Force. The scholars are recognized in May.
  • Presidential Scholars Program and Presidential Scholars for Career and Technical Education: This program recognizes and honors high school seniors who have demonstrated high achievement academically or in the arts, some having to overcome special challenges or hurdles to do so. Beginning in 2016, outstanding students who demonstrated excellence in career and technical education (CTE) were included for the Presidential Scholar recognition. The Presidential Scholars and Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education programs are two separate programs and require separate nomination forms. To nominate a student for the Presidential Scholars program or the Presidential Scholars in Career and Technical Education program, a nomination form must be completed and submitted to the address indicated on the nomination form. Nomination forms may be accessed here. Schools may only nominate two students for each program from their school. Completed nominations are due no later than Oct. 10, 2023.
  • United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP): This program brings the highest-level officials from each branch of government together with an outstanding group of high school students – two high school juniors or seniors from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) – during an intensive week-long educational program in Washington, D.C. The program is merit-based and highly competitive. Each student selected receives a one-time $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to pursue coursework in history and political science. All eligible students are encouraged to apply for the 2024 USSYP. Applicants must complete all personal information on the application (PDF); include an official transcript with an unweighted GPA; have two letters of support; complete the two written application essays - Essay 1 (DOC) and Essay 2 (DOC); and include signatures of principal and parents. Applications for the program are due Oct. 10, 2023.


KSDE’s CRP team administers the following recognition programs for educators:

  • Kansas Exemplary Educators Network (KEEN): The mission of KEEN is to build and utilize a network of exemplary educators who are leaders in the improvement of schools, student performance and the teaching/education profession. Members must be currently employed in an educational institution in Kansas and be a recipient of one of the following awards: Kansas Teacher of the Year; Milken Family Foundation Educator Awards Program; Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST); and Kansas Horizon Awards Program. Members of this group are invited to professional development opportunities that address various important education issues.
  • Kansas Exemplary Educator Pool: The goal of this program is to identify outstanding educators for special recognition, alternating between elementary (pre-K-5) and secondary (6-12) each year. District officials are encouraged to nominate deserving educators who make a positive impact on their students and possess a clear vision for quality teaching. KSDE invites public and private school districts to participate in this talent pool. Exemplary teachers, specialists and principals from Kansas public and private schools who have taught for at least five years and not more than 18 and who have demonstrated exceptional teaching and leadership abilities are great candidates for this pool. Educators who are state or regional Kansas Teachers of the Year or National Presidential Awards finalists aren’t eligible.
  • Kansas Horizon Award Program: The mission of this program is to recognize exemplary first-year teachers who perform in a way that distinguishes them as outstanding. The program is sponsored by KSDE and identifies and recognizes representatives of excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state. Each school district may nominate one elementary classroom teacher and/or one secondary classroom teacher. Horizon Award winners receive special recognition during the KEEN State Education Conference, which takes place each February in Topeka. It is easy to nominate a teacher from your district – simply click on this link. Completed nominations must be postmarked no later than Oct. 10, 2023.
  • Kansas Teacher of the Year Program: The Kansas Teacher of the Year award recognizes and utilizes representatives of excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state. The mission of the program is to build and utilize a network of exemplary teachers who are leaders in the improvement of schools, student performance and the teaching profession. Two finalists (one elementary and one secondary) are selected from each of four congressional regions of the state. A Kansas Teacher of the Year is named during the Dale Dennis Kansas Teacher of the Year Banquet in September. The remaining finalists form the Kansas Teacher of the Year Team. Members from the team travel the state and make presentations alongside the Kansas Teacher of the Year. Nomination forms for the 2025 Kansas Teacher of the Year will be available here in early September 2023.
  • Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST): PAEMST is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science (including computer science) teaching. Since 1983, more than 4,700 teachers have been recognized for their contributions to math and science education. The PAEMST program is open to outstanding math and science teachers in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools; and the U.S. territories as a group. Principals, teachers, parents, students and members of the general public may nominate a teacher by completing a nomination form available on the PAEMST website. Teachers may also apply directly at www.paemst.org. This year’s awards will honor science, technology, engineering or math teachers working in grades K-6. Nominations close on Jan. 8, 2024. Applications for K-6th educators must be completed by Feb. 6, 2024.

KSDE’s CRP team administers the following recognition programs for schools:

  • Blue Ribbon Schools: The Blue Ribbon Schools Program was established in 1982 to honor schools that have achieved high levels of performance or significant improvements with emphasis on schools serving disadvantaged students. The Blue Ribbon award is considered the highest honor an American school can achieve. The program honors elementary and secondary schools that make significant progress in closing the achievement gap, recognizing those schools that have at least 40% of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds and have dramatically improved student performance to high levels in reading and math. The program also recognizes schools with students achieving in the top 15%. Schools are nominated based on state assessments in reading and math and by the Kansas Commissioner of Education.
  • Challenge Awards: The Challenge Awards were created to honor schools that performed well on the state assessments and had high percentages of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those who live in poverty. The awards help showcase the many positive academic achievements taking place in schools with predominately high-risk populations. A statistical model is used that includes math and reading state assessment scores, the percent of the sample of students who received free or reduced-price lunch and the percent who were member of an ethnic minority. Graduation rates and chronic absenteeism also are factors. The top 100 Kansas schools are then selected. Only schools that have a total percentage of free and reduced-price lunch students about the state average of 46.14% are eligible for recognition.

For more information on any of these programs, contact KSDE’s Tamla Miller at (785) 296-4950 or email her at tmiller@ksde.org.

Posted: Aug 23, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

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