KASB staff members show appreciation for teachers

Nearly all of us have had a teacher who inspired us to do our best, or maybe prodded us to do at least a little better. In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day, KASB staff offered recollections about their favorite teachers. We hope you enjoy these testimonials and that they will help you reflect on your own school careers and honor those teachers and school staff who went the extra mile.

Amanda Rollenhagen, Controller

Ms. Virginia Wolken, Erie USD 101 High School Chemistry and Physics. She helped many students understand the concepts action and reaction. She believed in her students and didn’t take shade from ornery teenagers. I remember her slightly nerdy sense of humor that few truly appreciated at our age. She wasn’t afraid to take a bus load of students on a yearly science trip and she was so enthusiastic about Scholars Bowl and Science club. I enjoyed her classes and clubs. Ms. Wolken continues to be on my mind as I venture into new academic tangents in science and mathematics.

Angela Stallbaumer, Assistant Executive Director of Legal Services

Oakley High School had the privilege of hosting Tom Baalman for 27 years of his career as a teacher of advanced math and science courses. Being a member of the Mensa Group, he was a brilliant man and had very high expectations for his students. As anyone who has attempted to help me understand school finance could attest to, math has never been my strong suit. But, through his tireless counsel, phenomenal dry wit, and not-so-subtle reminders that if I didn’t want to be flipping burgers for the rest of my life, I should probably learn this stuff, we persevered through his courses together. His was a calm and steady voice in his students’ heads driving them to do better and reach their potential. Upon receiving word of his passing this winter, I and my siblings, both engineers who obviously were propelled more by Mr. Baalman’s classes than the lowly attorney, took the time to reach out across three states and reminisce with each other about his teaching. He was a large part of our professional trajectories and many others’ over the decades. Thank you, Mr. Baalman, for not giving up on us when we all so desperately wanted to throw in the towel. You are loved and greatly missed.

Melissa Holder, Executive Assistant

Lucile Lucas, was my English teacher at Harrison Junior High School in Great Bend, Kansas. She was tough and could handle any situation thrown at her. She really knew how to connect with us and we knew she expected us to do our best! I remember not putting in the effort on an assignment and she pulled me aside just to chat and check in. I knew when she asked to chat I had disappointed her but her taking the time to speak with me meant the world. She truly cared about me and about all of us. I still remember reading “A Tale of Two Cities” where she painted a picture of the story clearly in my mind. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Her connection with all of us was one of the best times!

Carol Pitts, Assistant Executive Director Marketing and Public Relations

Mr. Tom Burkholder, debate coach, Haven High School, Haven USD 312. You only really improve in debate by doing, often failing miserably as a beginner, then trying again. Entering the program as a freshman could have been intimidating because novice and experienced often practiced together. Instead, Mr. Burkholder’s room was a safe zone, competitive but not adversarial, and he instilled a sense of esprit de corps. He would encourage, nurture and challenge us at just the right moments and with the right words. He also taught us how to laugh at ourselves and recover from a disastrous round and get right back up and try again.

Sam Blasi, Attorney

Mr. James Waldy,  eighth-grade teacher at Cair Paravel Latin School in Topeka. Mr. Waldy made a potentially awkward and transitional year into a rite of passage for the young men and women of Cair Paravel. Instilling unorthodox but pertinent mettle in young mind, calling us from mediocrity to something stronger, something greater; Mr. Waldy enraptured myself and other students every day. I am grateful to Mr. Waldy for his patience, enthusiasm, and pathos for teaching the students of Cair Paravel Latin School.

Mary Pierce, Workers Compensation Specialist

Mrs. Felker, fifth-grade teacher at Maude Bishop Elementary (USD 501), Topeka. Mrs. Felker made learning fun. She made reading novels fun like going on an adventure and envisioning faraway places. She also instilled creativity in her students. For example, for art the whole class painted on some white material and Mrs. Felker used the painted material to make a dress and wore it in our class picture.

Randy Weseman, Assistant Executive Director Operations and Leadership Services

I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful and caring teachers and selecting a favorite is always a difficult decision. Al Cook was a high school teacher and coach in my home town of Dighton, Kansas. He embodied this unique gift of being tough but also kind and caring. His influence on me continues to this day. His talent was to awaken your expectations and provide an educational foundation to build on throughout life.

Marcia Weseman, Leadership Services Field Specialist

Mrs. Morns, iconic in appearance with her white hair in a bun on top of her head and black readers hanging from a chain on her neck, was a unified studies teacher at Northern Hills Junior High School. In her Unified Studies class, a two hour block of integrated social studies and english language arts, Mrs. Morns gave us access to materials (decades before the internet) to learn about a specified time in history and specific concepts related to that time. She taught us writing and presentation skills to demonstrate our learning for each unit. I wrote long, detailed responses to Mrs. Morns’ request that we show her through writing and presentation everything we had learned. Since we had great latitude to choose what to learn, I spent a lot of time making sure I conveyed my new learning. The year Mrs. Morns was my teacher, my mother was diagnosed with and treated for cancer, a time when such treatment was more invasive and less certain than it is today. It was a scary period of time in my life; although, I never voiced that fear. However, every day, Mrs. Morns asked about my mother. Nearly five decades later, the effects of her daily inquiries influence my life.

Ashley Rohleder, Attorney

Miss Nancy Lane, Russell High School History/Government/Social Studies teacher and 2017 Inductee to the Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame, was a huge influence in the trajectory of my life. She pushed us to keep up with current events, linking the historical events we were living through to those previous generations experience. One of my favorite lessons was when she brought in her record player and some of her 60s-70s albums, gave us printouts of lyrics of protest songs and then broke down specific incidents or references in them. She provided me with knowledge of our Constitution and government that continue to serve me to this day.

Amy Helt, Account Executive, Risk Management

My favorite teacher was Marlene Daily while I attended Perry LeCompton High School from 1980-1984. She was my PE teacher and my volleyball coach.  She taught us how to work hard and be healthy, but in a way that was fun.  She was an amazing volleyball coach who pushed us hard, but never so hard that we didn’t love her and the game. It was always balance.  Miss Daily always had balance. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher (likely because of her) and got my degree in Education from Washburn University.  I didn’t teach (ended up in the insurance world), but I’ll never forget her.  She lives in Lawrence and I get to see her occasionally.  She’s the BEST.

Debbie Dyche, Advocacy/Research Assistant

I’d have to say my favorite teacher was Miss Dittimore, my fifth- and sixth-grade teacher. She was always enthusiastic and full of energy. You couldn’t help but get the vibe from her, and I became enthusiastic in her class. She always took the time to show and help me time and time again. She always cared about us learning and our well-being. She never let us give up if we were stuck, and she worked with us until we figured out a solution.

Leslie Garner, Paralegal/Legal Assistant, Division of Legal Services

Mrs. Sara Busse was my favorite teacher. She taught Jr./Sr. High School Business classes in Bruning, Neb. Mrs. Busse is why I am an administrative assistant today. She was the goddess of patience when it came to teaching typing and shorthand.

Donna L. Whiteman,, General Counsel, Assistant Executive Director Policy Services

Mrs. Choate, fifth-grade teacher, Baldwin Elementary School, Pontiac Michigan.  Mrs. Choate was a very organized,  structured teacher who created a calm, kind, acceptance of others, learning environment. She would  ask me to come in and help her on teacher work days and that little extra attention  helped to build my confidence and was the beginning of my love of teaching and English. She was the person I admired  and wanted to be like.

Sue Givens, Field Services Specialist

Mrs. Gormley, Sophomore English – Highland High School, Highland, Kansas. Mrs. Gormley received mixed reviews from my classmates. Some hated the papers she returned with red edits and multiple comments in the margins. They thought she was demanding. She was. She kept me on task by nudging, insisting, and correcting. I thought her dry wit was a secret code between the two of us, that none of the others could interpret. I also knew she was going to hold my feet to the fire, but I really believed it was because she liked me better than everyone else. Yes, I said it. I thought I was her favorite. Looking back, I know I wasn’t. After years of being an educator myself, I now realize she had that innate ability to build relationships with her students, making each one feel her focus was on them. It was – on every one of us. I’ve often told people that I believe a core skill that has led me to some level of success in life is my writing ability. As an educator, I know the love of reading was essential to my writing skills. But there are many readers who are not writers. Mrs. Gormley taught me that writing takes you to a place that moves you beyond the passivity of reading to the power of creating a voice.

Pam Schwartz, Receptionist/Administrative Assistant for Leadership Services

Mrs. Esther Jones was my favorite teacher. She taught sixth grade at Martin West School, in Atchison, Kansas. Back then, you were pretty much with the same teacher for most of the day; so she taught the gamut of subjects and made all of them worth learning! She especially gave me the love of reading, English and the proofing skills I still use to this day. Mrs. Jones was tough but had that soft-side that made her such a likeable human being!

Ted Carter, Chief Data Officer

Mr. Sportsman was a gruff and burly retired Army Master Sergeant who was my home room and math teacher in sixth grade. He never let me or any of his students doubt that we were important to him and that with effort we could accomplish anything. He encouraged me to pursue creating and overseeing a class newspaper when I expressed an interest in doing so, and supported my efforts both during and outside of class.

Mark Tallman, Associate Executive Director Advocacy and Communications

It is so hard to pick a favorite teachers, so I will choose my uncle and high school English teacher at Thomas More Prep in Hays, Kansas, Fr. Gilmary Tallman. He nourished my love of history and literature, and introduced me to my favorite quote ABOUT teachers. In “A Man for All Seasons,” Thomas More, the highest government official in England, who would later be killed by the king for his faith, tells an ambitious young man that politics would corrupt him. Instead, the future saint tells him he should become a teacher; he would be a good one, perhaps great. “If I was,” the young man asked, “who would know?” Thomas More answered: “You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that.”

Rod Spangler, Director of Risk Management

When I look back on my education career, I can remember easily every elementary teacher. As it moves in to multiple subject middle school and high school, it is much harder. I was not the greatest of students and I never found a “joy” in school. I remember clearly Mrs. Neff, my third-grade teacher. When asked who my favorite teacher is, she is always one that comes to mind. I am not sure why other than her connection to me personally. My wife is a third-grade teacher; I see her making connections with kids on a personal level, those connections like mine, will last decades. What a powerful position to be in — perhaps not the math facts I should have paid attention to but to know that how you made someone feel will last a lifetime.

Dr. Brian Jordan, Deputy Executive Director

Mr. Clover, seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher, and junior high football and basketball coach, Beloit Jr.-Sr. High School. Mr. Clover was a great story teller which made history interesting. I probably grew the most from interactions that I had with him through the sports that he coached. He really instilled in us to be accountable and take responsibility for your actions. To this day, I can remember interactions with Mr. Cover and how much passion he had for his job.

Sharon Abeyta, Senior Claims Adjuster

Mrs. Johnson, seventh-grade math, Aurora, Colo. Mrs. Johnson was always impeccably dressed, never showed she was stressed and ran her class with an iron fist. She was always organized and kept us on track. I learned a lot that year about math and being organized. My second favorite teacher is my daughter – she teaches with her whole heart and cares about every one of her kids success!

Scott Rothschild, Communications Editor

Mrs. Duffy, seventh-grade social studies and homeroom, JHS 45, the Bronx, N.Y. Mrs. Duffy treated every student fairly and she made the history of our country interesting. She also took our class on a lot of field trips. Martin Luther King was assassinated that year and we had several emotional classroom discussions about Dr. King’s work and what he meant.

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