Award winning teachers talk to legislators

Members of an award-winning group of Kansas teachers told legislators on Tuesday that Common Core was good and the lack of special education teachers and para-professionals was becoming a big problem.

Kansas Teacher of the Year Shannon Ralph of Dodge City USD 443 and the seven Kansas Regional Teachers of the Year were honored in the House and Senate and spoke to a joint session of the education committees.  

Jennifer Hofferber, a special education teacher at Liberal USD 480, used the opportunity to tell legislators that the pay of special education para-professionals needs to be increased to attract and retain quality paras.

"My students make strong bonds with these paras," Hofferber said. "When one leaves, it is a difficult transition," she said.

Abby Hedrick, a seventh-grade mathematics teacher at Paola USD 368, said she was fearful of Common Core at first, but has since embraced it, saying the standards are more clear and consistent and help students better prepare for careers and college.

2015 Kansas Teacher of the Year Shannon Ralph, a biology teacher at Dodge City High School, said she was proud of the state's science standards.

The teachers also spoke in favor of smaller class sizes, saying that increases one-on-one learning opportunities.

State Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said he has had conversations with teachers who say they aren't comfortable talking to their local board members. But Ralph and several of the other teachers said they had great relationships with their local school boards. "They care about our kids," Ralph said.

Other regional winners who spoke to the legislators were Beau Bragg, a physical education teacher at Bonner Springs-Edwardsville USD 204; Lisa Holt, a special education teacher at Winfield USD 465; Jamie McDaniel, an elementary school teacher at Paola USD 368; Dennis Munk, a physical education teacher at Haysville USD 261; and Kimberly Nelson, a language arts teacher at Bonner Springs-Edwardsville USD 204.