Kansas Teacher of the Year Team speaks in favor of more counselors, inclusiveness

Several members of the Kansas Teacher of the Year team on Tuesday spoke in favor of hiring more counselors, providing more inclusive curriculum and immigration reform, saying their students are facing challenges unheard of just a few years ago. The team made a presentation to the Kansas State Board of Education.

Gilbert Still Jr., an elementary school teacher with Dodge City USD 443, which has a large immigrant population, said some of his students fear their parents or other family members will be deported.

“You have 5-year-olds worried about going home and not having a parent or grandparent,” Still said.

Samantha Neill, an English teacher for Buhler USD 313 who is the Kansas Teacher of the Year, urged the State Board of Education to support the emotional and social health of Kansas students and the proposal made by Sam Brownback before he resigned as governor to increase the number of school counselors by 150 per year.

Neill also said being trained on how to spot trauma in a child and adapting teaching strategies to address that situation has made her a better teacher.

Angela Powers, an English teacher with Olathe USD 233, talked about her daughter who was bullied as are most LGBTQ students. She said more training was needed to reduce bullying and school curricula need to be more inclusive so students can see representations of themselves.

The other members of the Kansas Teacher of the Year are Jennifer Donovan, music teacher at De Soto USD 232; Jamie Manhart, journalism teacher at Silver Lake USD 372; Megan Nagel, English and science teacher at Newton USD 373; Sarah VenJohn, math teacher at Winfield USD 465 and Bradley Weaver, music teacher with Atchison USD 409.

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