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Two area teachers named Region 2 finalists for Kansas Teacher of the Year

Posted: Mar 28, 2021
Author: Ann Bush

Megan O’Neill, a fourth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, Ottawa Unified School District 290, and Helen (Lisa) Martinez, a Spanish teacher at Seaman High School, Seaman USD 345, were named Region 2 finalists for the 2022 Kansas Teacher of the Year award during a virtual ceremony Sunday, March 28. This award recognizes excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state.

In prior years, the Kansas Teacher of the Year finalist ceremony has taken place in person. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event took place virtually this year.

As finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction, O’Neill and Martinez each will receive 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 25, in Wichita.

O’Neill and Martinez were among six Teacher of the Year semifinalists from Region 2, which covers the first U.S. congressional district.

Other semifinalists were Katie Dinkel, a first-grade teacher at Tecumseh North Elementary School, Shawnee Heights USD 450; Bridget Walker, a fifth-grade teacher at Lakeside Elementary School, Pittsburg USD 250; Shari Flakus, an AVID teacher at Billy Mills Middle School, Lawrence USD 497; and Betty Wheeler, a business and information technology teacher at Neodesha High School, Neodesha USD 461.

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

This year, 138 educators across the state were nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction.

Nominations are made in each of four regions in the state. The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), sponsor of the Kansas Teacher of the Year program, appoints regional selection panels comprised of teachers, education administrators and higher education representatives to select semifinalists and finalists from each region.

Each panel selects six semifinalists — three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers. From those semifinalists, the panel in each region then selects one elementary finalist and one secondary finalist. The Kansas Teacher of the Year is selected from among the state’s eight regional finalists. 

The mission of the Kansas Teacher of the Year 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.

The Kansas Teacher of the Year team, comprised of the Teacher of the Year and state finalists, serves as an ambassador for education in Kansas, making public appearances across the state promoting education and the teaching profession.

The individual selected as the Kansas Teacher of the Year is eligible for national distinction as National Teacher of the Year.

The National Teacher of the Year program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with the Voya Foundation.

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