Salina USD 305 Teachers Honored

Salina USD 305 has named its Horizon Teachers. The Horizon Award recognizes exemplary first year teachers. This year’s winners are Lindsey Chavez, a 4th grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School, and Cole Dow, a welding instructor at Salina Central High School. 

2022 Elementary Horizon Award – Lindsey Chavez, 4th Grade Teacher, Sunset

Well into her second year at Sunset Elementary School, Lindsey makes sure her 4th grade classroom is grounded in organization, calm and respect. On this foundation, she builds strong connections with her students.

In person and on Google Classroom, she has positive, uplifting conversations with students that help inspire them to work. Lindsey explains, “The most beneficial thing you can do as an educator is to get to know your students and build a relationship. One of my favorite parts of teaching is getting to know my students’ backgrounds and interests.”

She incorporates high interest topics and highlights important events in her students’ lives. “I always wish them luck before a basketball tournament or ask them to tell me about a book they have been reading.” Her students feel included and important when she shares her kind sense of humor and takes the time for individual conversations.

When creating a learning plan for a student, Lindsey never makes assumptions. “I pull from many sources; data, assessments, student input, teacher input, and parent input. Because each student’s needs are different, I create individualized plans and interventions.”

“I think recognizing individual growth is important for students to stay motivated,” explained Lindsey. “It’s inspiring for students to see where they started and how far they’ve come. She takes the time to acknowledge progress and celebrate success.

Lindsey’s communication with parents and guardians is founded on the belief that parents and teachers are a team, working toward the same goal of student achievement. “Parents help you gain insights about their child that you may not see at school,” explained Lindsey. She makes it a priority to communicate frequently and to keep it timely. “Whether it is an event coming up or a paper I’m sending home, I make it a priority to keep my families in the loop about what is going on.”

2022 Secondary Horizon Award – Cole Dow, Welding Instructor, Central HS

While it is just his second year of teaching high school students, Cole Dow’s teaching experience actually reaches back 25 years. He spent those years teaching welding in the military before joining Central High School. The resulting wealth of experience helps Cole smoothly blend real-world encounters with classroom learning. The result is students who are engaged and eager to get ready for the workforce.

Cole connects well with his students, providing structure and motivating them to raise their skills in preparation to join the industry. He creates a supportive classroom environment so his students are inspired to take a few risks, learn more and reach a little further.

In January, Cole took 13 students to the Missouri Welding Institute (MWI) to compete and learn. “Eight students came as observers and were able to grade the welds as an additional exercise to learn more about weld deficiencies and how to improve their own welding techniques. Five seniors were eligible to compete with Trevor Johnson of South High School placing 9th out of 400.”

Cole knows that these opportunities help build students’ confidence and comfort with the real-life scenarios that they will encounter after graduation.

At the MWI competition, all the students participated in a job fair where they discussed career opportunities with national employers. “Our students were able to practice talking with future employers,” explained Cole. “Two students got an open offer of $28 per hour to start after they graduate.”

“In his second year of teaching, Cole has breathed new life into our welding program,” stated Matt Brungardt, principal of Central High School. “The number of students taking welding is at an all-time high and we have an unprecedented interest in the program.”