School district honors staff, local residents
The Tonganoxie Junior High School commons area was filled with school district employees and guests last Wednesday for the annual end of the school year breakfast.
Ron Leslie again prepared the meal, as superintendent Richard Erickson presented several people with plaques, certificates and gifts for their work during the past year in the Tonganoxie school district.
Friends of Education
Erickson awarded this year's Friends of Education to:
- Velda Roberts for serving as a member of the school district's facility improvement committee for four years and the bond election committee.
- Gene Becker. Like Roberts, Becker served on the facility improvement and bond election committees. Becker now serves on the Facility Review Committee.
- The American Legion. The American Legion, represented by Jim Rogers, has donated several flags to Tonganoxie Elementary School for classroom use. Members also are willing to share their knowledge and experiences of serving in the armed forces, Erickson said.
- B&J Country Mart and owner Jim Gambrill. B&J donated roughly $5,000 to Tonganoxie Junior High School. Gambrill's grocery store participates in a school contribution program in which a percentage of profits are donated to USD 464.
A few Tonganoxie educators received awards and nominations for the past academic year.
Teachers receiving plaques for their work were:
- Merrilee Cooper. An educator at TES for 20 years, Cooper was named as a nominee for the Kansas Teacher of the Year award in the elementary school division. This program is sponsored by the Kansas Department of Education. Erickson said she has "one of the best classroom volunteers that a teacher could have." George Cooper, Merrilee's father, helped students in her third-grade classroom several times a week.
- Sue Walker. At Tonganoxie High School, Walker was nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year award in the secondary school division. Walker has served as a student-at-risk instructor for 15 years, the last four at Tonganoxie.
- Barb Bahm. Serving as a librarian at Tonganoxie junior and senior high schools, Bahm also has established reading clubs at both schools. Bahm was named as a co-recipient of the Outstanding Local Educator award.
- Jill Conrad. Conrad was the other recipient of the Outstanding Local Educator award. Conrad started her teaching career two years ago. Erickson said he was pleased with her start at TES and asked her to share tips for new teachers during a new-staff orientation session in August.
- Virginia Constance. The longtime teacher was named Special Education Teacher of the Year. Erickson shared a comment from TES principal Jerry Daskoski during the breakfast about Constance's 28 years of service in the school district: "Day after day, year after year, decade after decade, she has taught with love in her heart and a fierce determination to meet the needs of every single student who has entered her classroom."
- Jessica Stukus. An art instructor at THS, Stukus was named a co-recipient of the Outstanding First Year Teacher award. Two of Stukus' students, Clinton Beach and Andrew Eveland, qualified for national competitions.
- Mike Bush. A sixth-grade teacher at TES, Bush was named the other Outstanding First Year Teacher award recipient. Erickson said Bush relates in a positive way to his high expectations and excellent teaching. A student's parent told Erickson that the student had a renewed love for learning and school because of Bush.
The recent school year marked the final one at Tonganoxie school district for these retiring educators. Erickson presented them with a plaque and a gift.
- Pat Wakeman. For the past 36 years, Wakeman served as a science and biology instructor at the high school. While at Tonganoxie, Wakeman has developed a nature trail near the creek south of the high school and has been an active member of Arbor Club, which plants trees on a regular basis. He also has served as an instructor in the elementary school's Enrichment Academy.
- Deniece Wakeman. At the elementary school, Deniece, who is Pat's wife, has taught 32 years combined as a first-grade and third-grade teacher. The past five years, she taught as a reading recovery instructor.
- Brenda Shaw. During her 33 years at Tonganoxie Elementary, Shaw taught every grade level except second and fourth. In the last nine years, she taught eighth-grade science. In addition, Erickson said Shaw had been instrumental in developing the Science Olympiad Program at the junior high. Although Shaw is retiring from Tonganoxie, she will begin work in the fall as a counselor in Olathe.
- Pat Walker. A counselor at Tonganoxie Elementary, Walker worked in the school district for 15 years. She has been the student council sponsor at TES and has developed the Character Education Program, which involves parents and grandparents joining students for lunch with specific character themes being emphasized. Walker also has been the school liaison to the Parents as Teachers program.
- Diane Mahoney. After 14 years as a fifth-grade instructor at TES, Mahoney is retiring from the school district. Erickson said parents he has talked to say, "They sure appreciate the kind and caring manner Mrs. Mahoney has had with their children in helping their children develop academically and socially."
Other faculty and citizens associated with the school district are leaving for other positions. The following people were recognized for their years of service:
- Rick and Becky Lamb. Rick, who was a school board member of the past six years and pastor of West Haven Baptist Church, is leaving to take the helm of a church in Texas. His wife, Becky, was an elementary school teacher for the past 12 years.
- Jenny Lange. For the past two years Lange worked as a vocal music instructor at the elementary school.
- Megan Gepner. The 2004-05 school year was Gepner's first as a teacher in the school district. Gepner taught second grade. Erickson said she wants to spend more time with her husband, Joe.
- Susan Steele. Steele was a Spanish teacher during the last school year at TJHS.
- Brad Qualls. After a year in the Tonganoxie school district, Qualls will work in the Baldwin school district next school year. Qualls served as an eighth-grade English instructor.
- Chris and Jenna Delay. The couple worked as English instructors at THS the past two years. Chris also was a drama coach, while Jenna was the dance team coach the past three years. Chris also established a summer theater work-study program, which provided employment and work study for several area students.
Round of applause
During the breakfast, Erickson recognized several employees for their work during the previous school year.
These employees were honored at the event:
- Dee Stone. A custodian at Tonganoxie Elementary, Stone earned a plaque for "going above and beyond the call of duty in providing a clean environment for the students and teachers at TES," Erickson said.
- Carly Puhr. Puhr has been a secretary at TES for four years. Erickson presented Puhr with a plaque, noting her communication skills and her being "a kind and caring individual."
- Herb and Wanda Robbins. The Tonganoxie couple have served as bus, van and substitute drivers since the 1960s.
- Lori Rahjes. Rahjes has been president of the Parent Teacher Association and has served as an officer for several years. She also served on the Bond Election Committee. Rahjes and her family recently moved to Nebraska, where her husband works at a radio station.
Years of service
Each year, the Kansas University school of education recognizes educators who have served in public schools a minimum of 25 years. This year, certificates were awarded to Virginia Constance, Jane Musgrave, Barb Bahm and Pam Lamb.
Kathy Powers, Helen Lohman and Linda Dent also were honored for their work within the school district.
Powers served for five years as a paraeducator on a special-education bus. Powers rode with students daily to Leavenworth.
Lohman has served for 40 years in the school district. She has been a bus driver at Tonganoxie during that time.
Dent, who worked as head of the TJHS food service program, retired earlier in the year.