Kansas teacher of the year winners, lots of social studies nerds, and a ton of learning

About 200 social studies teachers from around the state made their way to the Old Town Conference Center in downtown Wichita last Sunday and Monday for the annual state conference. If you were there, you know this already.

If you were not there . . . well, you missed a lot of social studies awesome. Seriously. Make plans for next year. Great conversations. Great learning. Great networking. Great food. Great people.

We know that Kansas does social studies a bit differently. Ever since 2013, when the latest state  standards document was released, teachers in the state are being asked to focus on five major themes and historical thinking skills rather than just teaching a bunch of dates and places. It’s the balance between process and knowledge that we’re after.

But doing things differently also extends to our state level conference. It seems that in most other states, the different social studies organizations host their own conferences. Econ here. Geo there. History somewhere else. Here in Kansas?

The four major social studies groups – the Kansas Council for Economic Education, the Kansas Council for History Education, the Kansas Council for the Social Studies, and the Kansas Geographic Alliance – all work together to host one conference a year. With the support and encouragement of the Kansas Department of Education, this makes it easier for K-12 teachers to find us all in the same place and increases the cumulative social studies goodness.

This encourages some awesome learning opportunities. It also makes for a great Sunday night reception when we honor all of our different teachers of the year. This year’s winners?

  • Gilder Lehrman Kansas History Teacher of the Year
    Kathy Harrell
  • Kansas Council for Economic Education Teacher of the Year
    Matthew Wolfe
  • Kansas Council for the Social Studies Teacher of the Year
    Emily Snyder
  • Kansas Council for History Education Teacher of the Year
    Kathy Schaller – Elementary
    Blanche Wulfekoetter – Secondary
  • Kansas Geographic Alliance Teacher of the Year
    Lynn Boitano
KCSS president Kori Green, Emily Synder, KGA coordinator John Harrington, Lynn Boitano, KSDE consultant Don Gifford, Kathy Harrell, Gilder Lehrman coordinator Glenn Wiebe, Blanche Wulfekoetter, KCHE president Emily Williams, Matthew Wolfe, KCEE director Angela Howdieshell

And during this conference, another Kansas first. From this list of individual organizational winners, KSDE  selected an overall state Teacher of the year. Congratulations to Blanche Wulfekoetter as the first ever recipient of the Kansas Social Studies Teacher of the Year award.

So . . . not only should you make plans to attend next year’s conference, you need to start thinking about nominating someone for next year’s TOYs. The honor of winning is important but there are also cash awards involved here. Several thousand dollars were awarded to this year’s winners. (The 2018 Gilder Lehrman nomination process is already open and waiting for you!)

There was other stuff going on after the awards. The KCEE taught us some nice lessons in cost / benefit economic principles. They handed out five dollar bills Sunday night – we could keep our new $5 or spend it on drinks.

I choose to spend my money wisely. Cheap drinks, duh. We viewed the Kansas State University production Dawn of Day, highlighting the history of the Underground Railroad in Kansas.

We also had the chance to meet and listen to Dr. Lawrence Paska, National Council for the Social Studies executive director. Larry hung around both days, speaking again on Monday during lunch. There were multiple breakout sessions throughout the day on Monday with topics ranging from K-5 literacy to world geography fantasy drafts to STEM in the Social Studies to DIgital Lockboxes.

It’s always great to get together with other social studies teachers, learning and sharing from one another. Already looking forward to next year.

About Glenn Wiebe

I work as a social studies specialist at ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas. Before coming to ESSDACK, I taught middle school US History and higher ed social science classes.

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