Salina Teachers Honored

Three teachers have been honored by Salina USD 305. The district has honored its Master Teacher of the Year, and Horizon Award winners.

The Salina USD 305 Master Teacher is selected by members of NEA-Salina.  Salina USD 305 presents a Horizon Award to teachers who have demonstrated excellence during their first full year of teaching.

2016 Master Teacher – Nikki Chamberlain, South High School

Nikki started her teaching career in 2003 at Salina South High School. Since then she has taught chemistry, physical science, and AP chemistry classes. Nikki earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and secondary education from Kansas State University, as well as a master’s degree in curriculum & instruction with emphasis in ESL (English as a second language).
Eleven years ago, she started the Lab Chicks Club at South High School. The mission of the club is to develop young girls’ interest in science and to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). To achieve that goal, she organizes a Quirkles reading program at district elementary schools and provides science lessons with patrons at Choices Network. The hallmark event is Girls in the Lab Day, coordinated and implemented by Nikki each of the past nine years. Over 250 young people participate in programs provided by the lab chicks on a yearly basis.

Nikki has been a member of National Education Association (NEA) for the past 14 years and a member of the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network for 11 years. She served as the Kansas State University Upward Bound Math & Science Coordinator, on the USD 305 Teacher Advisory Council, USD 305 Technology Committee, USD 305 LIFT Committee, and is a teacher representative on the South High Design Team for the 2014 bond project. Nikki also serves as the South High Representative for the Salina Education Foundation.

In 2011, Nikki was the USD 305 Secondary Teacher of the Year and won Kansas Regional Teacher of the Year. She was recognized as a Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) Teacher of Promise and named a KSDE Horizon Award Recipient. Nikki received the KSU Patrick Distinguished High School Chemistry Teaching Award. In 2008, she won the UD114 Instructional Award.

Nikki’s strongest belief in teaching is that relationships are more important than content. Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. She works hard every day to build relationships with her students and knows that when she does, content knowledge will follow. As a chemistry teacher, she wants her students to gain an understanding of the world around them. She provides students with a variety of authentic, hands-on, inquiry-based activities to foster their ability to problem solve and think critically. Nikki’s goal is for students to leave her class curious to learn more about the natural world.

2016 Secondary Horizon Award – Kim Gaede, South Middle School
Directly after a successful student teaching experience at Cottonwood, Kim Gaede was hired at South Middle School. Her work ethic was apparent when she voluntarily came to her future workplace to observe the sixth grade classrooms in action during the last two weeks of the school year. Before her teaching contract even started, she helped with the basketball camp and prepared her classroom for the upcoming 6th grade teaching assignment. She even agreed to fill in for the cross country coach who had to take a leave the first year the sport was offered. Fearless determination to conquer new challenges is a strength that sets Kim apart.

From the first day of school Kim has had a remarkable ability to control her classroom, encourage her students, and provide them with a clear direction for their learning. She is patient and calm yet has an air of positive authority with her students.

Kim is confident, interacts enthusiastically with students on a personal level, and is both firm and gentle as needed by her students. She enables students to find an entry point into learning math and then moves them forward confidently. She pushes her reading students with challenging texts, good instructional guidance and strong doses of encouragement and celebration.

2016 Elementary Horizon Award – Mary Plott, Oakdale Elementary School
As a Horizon teacher, Mary is in her second year of teaching – though you would not be able to tell this when observing her classroom. Mary has an intuitive aptitude for building strong, lasting relationships with students. She is a self-starter who aims to get things done right the first time, seen in her unmatched attention to detail.

A believer in frequent communication with parents, Mary keeps them well-informed so that they aren’t surprised with news of success or concern. This also helps parents play an active role in their child’s education. Mary’s commitment to her families extends beyond the school day. Several times she has responded to after-hours emergency situations and even visited parents and students in the hospital.

Mary is a lifelong learner who invites coaching and feedback. She consistently works to improve her teaching strategies and effectiveness. An excellent collaborator, Mary easily strikes the delicate balance of making suggestions yet ensuring everyone has a chance to contribute.

Students in Mary’s class know she is available to them and are able to build trusting relationships with her. She is fair, consistent and sincere in her interactions with students. As students thrive in her classroom it’s not uncommon to see them experience unprecedented levels of respect and effort.