The Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year were honored by Salina USD 305 Tuesday evening.
Cathy Cash, a music teacher at Heusner Elementary, and Deirdre Hoff, a social studies teacher at Central High School, are the two teachers.
Each year two district instructors are nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year program. The awards are sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education and affiliated with the National Teacher of the Year program. For 2016, nominations were sought in the spring and the district nominees were submitted to the state in late March. As part of their recognition, Cash and Hoff each received the H.E. and Erma Lee Nuss Teacher of the Year award; personalized watches donated by Randy Johnson, Jostens, and Mary Kindlesparger, Coldwell Banker, Antrim-Piper Realtors; and gift certificates donated by Martinelli’s Little Italy.
Elementary Teacher of the Year: Cathy Cash
Cathy received her bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Northern Colorado and earned her master’s degree in music education from Kansas State University. Before joining Heusner’s teachers two years ago, she taught in the Twin Valley School District and at Colby and Nickerson South-Hutchinson school districts.
In Cathy’s room, all students achieve high levels of success as she provides support and a variety of mediums or entry points to unlock music. A student commented, “She’s really nice and when we mess up, instead of getting mad, she finds other ways to explain how we can fix our mistake so that we understand, like when I was singing a note wrong and she showed me how to move my throat so that it came out right.”
Cathy nurtures her students’ interests with variety in her music classes, bringing in different instruments, movement and vocals. Maximizing student engagement, she helps students take risks and discover the rewards of creativity. The variety of music genres in her classroom provide opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds to connect.
Cathy integrates the content of her music curriculum with other subjects such as physical education and reading. She constantly is making connections for students. When collaborating with the physical education teacher, her students are immersed in music and movement as they create their own dances to various rhythms.
Her positive outlook is appreciated by staff and students. Cathy has transformed the music program at Heusner, even in the short time she has been there. Students bring the inspiration they discover in Cathy’s classroom into other settings. They are encouraged to reach a little further and try a little harder. With a passion so contagious that it positively influences both students and staff, Cathy Cash is an exemplary teacher with a clear focus on doing ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure learning and success in her classroom.
Secondary Teacher of the Year: Deirdre Hoff
Deirdre received her bachelor’s degree in education and American ethnic studies from Kansas State University and completed her master’s degree at Emporia State University. She has taught history for 10 years at Central High School and is chairperson for the social studies department. Before this she taught at Shawnee Mission South High School for three years.
Each day, before she begins teaching history, Deirdre creates an incredible learning environment in her classroom where students feel respected and safe. She individualizes these practices and makes them personal for every student. The students enjoy her sense of humor and mastery of her content area, while her colleagues enjoy both her sense of humor and willingness to be a team player. Consistently, students create incredible projects synthesizing what they have learned in her class.
Deirdre is truly a marvel at creating learning opportunities that require students to push themselves deep into the historical context, understand the connections, and pull out the information to frame it into modern examples. Deirdre’s class is a living, breathing opportunity for students to learn and put history in the context of their lives.
Her students learn quickly that their understanding will grow across the discipline and beyond what is in the pages of the text books. She gets the students involved in their own learning by providing many opportunities for input and student manipulation of the learning outcome. They learn from her, each other, and resources beyond the classroom walls.
Staying on the cutting edge of technology and instruction, Deirdre integrates the students’ knowledge and expertise. She is willing to let the students discover and learn with her as she experiments with new technology as a mechanism for instruction. She utilizes technology as a tool for learning, allowing students to research, explore and collaborate beyond the school walls. Deirdre is a consummate professional, dedicated to an excellent learning experience for all of her students.