Bulldogs Celebrate KSD’s 2024 Teacher and Support Staff of the Year Award Winners

Teacher Emilie White and custodian Carl Stenger were selected for the district’s top annual honors

Kearney, Mo., April 16, 2024: Kearney School District has selected Southview Elementary School’s Emilie White for the 2024 Teacher of the Year Award and custodian Carl Stenger for this year’s Support Staff of the Year Award.

KSD Superintendent Emily Miller revealed the recipients of the district’s top annual honors to cap off an afternoon of celebrations during the 2024 Team KSD Awards & Retiree Reception held on Monday, April 15 at the Tobacco Barn Farm event location between Kearney and Holt. She also gave KSD’s 2024 Volunteer of the Year Award to Rachel Thomas and the 2024 Business of the Year Award to Reed Portrait Group.

The event kicked off with a reception amid the site’s bucolic farm setting for the nine school-level Teacher of the Year Award winners, 10 school-level Support Staff of the Year of the Year Award winners, and the nine KSD employees who will be retiring at the end of the school year, plus Mrs. Thomas and a representative of Reed Portrait Group.

“In my time here, I have witnessed firsthand the incredible efforts and sacrifices made by each member of our team to ensure the success and well-being of our students,” Dr. Miller said. “I firmly believe that it is essential to acknowledge and celebrate the tireless efforts of our team. While educators may not seek accolades, it is crucial to recognize the impact of their work and to ensure they feel valued and appreciated.”

Kearney School District’s 2024 retirees David Miller (from left), Jennifer McNeely, Sandy Henshaw, Kim Vanfossan, Kathy Spero, Jim Bundridge and Deb Zech were honored by Superintendent Emily Miller on Monday, April 15 at Tobacco Barn Farm.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Zach McMains introduced the 2024 cohort of KSD retirees. He also read the titles of the books that they each selected that were purchased by the district and donated in their honor to their school:

  • David Miller, Science Teacher, Kearney Junior High (Blind Watch Maker by Richard Dawkins)
  • Lee Ann Campbell, Social Studies Teacher, Kearney Middle School (To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
  • Jennifer McNeely, Counselor, KMS (Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul by Jack Canfield, Kimberly Kirberger, and Mark Victor Hansen)
  • Sandy Henshaw, Assistant Principal, Kearney High School (Whole Brain Teaching: 122 Amazing Games by Chris Biffle)
  • Kimberly Vanfossan, Science/PLTW Teacher, KJH (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)
  • Kathy Spero, Math Teacher, KJH (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak)
  • Heather Renzelman, Fourth Grade Teacher, Hawthorne Elementary (Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper)
  • Jim Bundridge, Industrial Technology Teacher, KHS (Purchased his own book)
  • Debra Zech, Lead Secretary, Kearney Elementary (The Winterton Deception 1: Final Word by Janet Sumner Johnson)
Kearney School District 2024 school-level Teacher of the Year Award recipients Rick Davitt (from left), Hue Marsh, Kim Goepferich, Elvis Rodriguez, Carl Stenger, Nikki Foote, Leslie Pilar, Britney Smith, Elvia Digirolamo and Wesley Cartwright were celebrated during the Team KSD Awards & Retiree Reception on Monday, April 15 at Tobacco Barn Farm.

Director of Special Programs Heather Guilkey led the recognitions for the school-level Support Staff of the Year Awards:

  • Wesley Cartwright (Paraprofessional at the Early Education Center)
  • Elvia Digirolamo (Paraprofessional at Dogwood Elementary)
  • Britney Smith (Secretary at Hawthorne Elementary)
  • Leslie Pilar (Permanent Building Substitute Teacher Kearney Elementary)
  • Nikki Foote (Paraprofessional at LENS)
  • Carl Stenger (Custodian at Southview Elementary)
  • Elvis Rodriguez (Custodian at KMS)
  • Kim Goepferich (Administrative Assistant at KJH)
  • Hue Marsh (Custodian at KHS)
  • Rick Davitt (KSD Grounds Crew)

Along with his district award, Mr. Stenger received a cash award of $250 and a $250 school grant from the Kearney School District Education Foundation (KSDEF). In her remarks, Dr. Miller focused on his work ethic, team mindset, and positive attitude.

“Always willing to lend a helping hand and never hesitating to jump in when needed, his positive attitude and can-do spirit are a source of inspiration to all who know him,” she said. “Carl’s proactive approach to his duties and his willingness to pitch in wherever needed make him a true team player, and his infectious enthusiasm uplifts the entire school climate.”

Superintendent Emily Miller (at left) honored Kearney School District 2024 school-level Teacher of the Year Award recipients Brittini Starzl, Amy Whitener, Ann Marzette, Emilie White, Shelly Dunn, Shannan Ashcroft, Stacy Sullivan, Chanda Murphy and Mary Watkins during the Team KSD Awards & Retiree Reception on Monday, April 15 at Tobacco Barn Farm.

The school-level Teacher of the Year Award honorees were introduced by Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services Jennifer Kopp:

  • Mary Watkins (Early Childhood Educator at the EEC)
  • Chanda Murphy (Kindergarten Teacher at Dogwood Elementary)
  • Stacy Sullivan (Kindergarten Teacher at Hawthorne Elementary)
  • Shannan Ashcroft (Third Grade Teacher at Kearney Elementary)
  • Shelly Dunn (Specials Teacher at LENS)
  • Emilie White (Second Grade Teacher at Southview Elementary)
  • Ann Marzette (Vocal Music Teacher at KMS)
  • Amy Whitener (Librarian at KJH)
  • Brittini Starzl (Foreign Language Teacher at KHS)

Ms. White received her district award from Dr. Miller in addition to a $250 cash award and a $750 classroom grant from the KSDEF.

“Emilie has a deep understanding of her student’s strengths and needs,” Dr. Miller said. “Colleagues and parents attest to Emilie’s exceptional ability to create dynamic learning environments that foster engagement, growth, and a sense of belonging. As a mentor to future teachers, Emilie plays a pivotal role in shaping the next generation of educators, providing guidance, support, and practical experience to aspiring professionals.”

Superintendent Emily Miller (at left) gave Kearney School District’s 2024 Business of the Year Award to Reed Portrait Group, represented by Angel Lewis.

Reed Portrait Group was chosen to receive the district’s 2024 Business of the Year Award because of the outstanding service and support provided by company founder Jim Reed and his team. Mr. Reed has been providing photography services for KSD since 1979.

“Led by Jim Reed, he and his team have consistently demonstrated excellence at capturing the milestones and achievements of our students and staff members through their exceptional photography services,” Dr. Miller said. “He and his team serve our schools with warmth, professionalism, and a genuine desire to exceed expectations.”

Kearney School District Superintendent Emily Miller (at left) gave KSD’s 2024 Volunteer of the Year Award to Rachel Thomas.

KSD’s 2024 Volunteer of the Year, Rachel Thomas, has three children in the school system. Last summer, she took on the formidable task of chairing the Vote Yes committee for our Prop S levy ballot measure. She also supports her school’s Parent-Teacher Organization and leads two Girls Scout troupes in the Kearney area.

“Rachel’s leadership, tireless efforts, and dedication are evident to all,” Dr. Miller said. “She has played a pivotal role in fostering a sense of community and support among parents, teachers, and staff.”

MORE PHOTOS: 2024 Team KSD Awards & Retiree Reception Photo Album