May 9, 2020

Twelve Lee’s Summit R-7 School District educators were recently named Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce Excellence In Teaching award winners. Recognized teachers are Nori Baker, Woodland Elementary School; Marcella Briggs, Hawthorn Hill Elementary School; Peggy Chandler, Summit Technology Academy; Lara Cole, Lee’s Summit West High School; Terry Durnell, Lee’s Summit North High School; Connie Ficken, Lee’s Summit High School; Andrew Hookie, Sunset Valley Elementary School; April Jackson, Prairie View Elementary School; Matthew Ketteman, Longview Farm Elementary School; Niki Stanley, Pleasant Lea Middle School; Angie Thurmond, Pleasant Lea Elementary School; and Molly Williamson, Lee’s Summit Elementary School. Each of the recipients will be honored at a reception sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and R-7 School District, to be scheduled once we are able to gather in groups. Three Teachers of Distinction and the 2020 Teacher of the Year will also be celebrated at the event.

The Excellence In Teaching and Teacher of Distinction recipients were selected by a committee composed of representatives from the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, the business community and R-7 staff members.

Ms. Nori Baker teaches third grade at Woodland Elementary School. She has been a teacher for 15 years in the Lee’s Summit School District, all at WLE and has taught third through sixth grades over the course of her 26 years. Ms. Baker was selected as a Model Teacher to represent all sixth grade teachers from PLE, PVE, HPE, and WLE and was the original literacy leader from the program’s inception in 2007. She co-implemented “Workshop Wednesdays” to discuss and share ideas with staff regarding Reader’s Workshop. Ms. Baker has incorporated Project-Based Learning into the classroom schedule so students can actively explore real world problems and challenges to acquire a deeper knowledge. She was also nominated for Teacher of the Year in 2019.

Mrs. Marcella Briggs is a second grade teacher at Hawthorn Hill Elementary School. This is her 28th year in education, with 22 years in the LSR7 School District. Marcella spent 17 years as a speech-language pathologist prior to becoming a classroom teacher and has taught first through third grades at Cedar Creek Elementary, Longview Farm Elementary and now at Hawthorn Hill Elementary. Mrs. Briggs has been a facilitator of multiple leadership teams and currently serves on the building and district Professional Development Committee and the LSR7 Diversity and Equity Committee. She co-founded #MOTeacherChat on Twitter. Marcella has been nominated for the Excellence in Teaching and Teacher of the Year several times prior to this nomination.

Mrs. Peggy Chandler teaches in the nursing program at Summit Technology Academy (STA). Her 42-year professional nursing career has afforded her a multitude of experiences in both the health industry and public education. She has been with LSR7 for 18 years, including eight as an elementary district nurse at HGE, WVE, HHE, LSE, CCE and LFE schools. After earning her education degree, Mrs. Chandler began her teaching career at STA. Utilizing recently acquired state of the art technology, she implemented a vision screening program in which STA professional nursing students screen 3,000-4,000 students annually at 12 district elementary schools. She coordinated health education presentations by STA professional nursing students to the district’s approximately 1,500 eighth graders with special emphasis on the dangers of vaping during in 2019. Peggy was selected as a teacher leader for DESE’s New Teacher Institute and is also an adjunct instructor at Metropolitan Community College.

Lara Cole

Mrs. Lara Cole teaches English at Lee’s Summit West High School. She has 21 years experience teaching secondary English, with the last 13 years in the LSR7 School District. Lara has been involved in numerous organizations and committees including serving as a member of the planning committee that organized the first LSW African American Read-In. She is an LSWHS Diversity Vision team member and led LSNHS students in traveling to the 75th anniversary of D-Day trip. Mrs. Cole is also an LSR7 delegate representative Xi’an of the China Exchange Program, received full fellowship to Oxford University to study English Literature, and has received two PEAK grants awarded by the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation. Outside of school she is involved in tutoring for the ACT and adult education programs. She has volunteered with her church family at countless food and clothing drives and also volunteers for voter registration drives.

Mrs. Terry Durnell is a broadcasting teacher at Lee’s Summit North High School. She has been a teacher in Lee’s Summit for 23 years, all at LSNHS, teaching a variety of classes, including: English, Yearbook, Newspaper, Broadcast, Video Technology and IB Film, as well as dual credit courses through UCM. LSNHS students in her broadcasting, film, newspaper, video technology and yearbook classes have won multiple awards at local, state and national levels of competition. Terry was named Missouri Interscholastic Press Association High School Journalism Teacher of the Year 2003-2004. Mrs. Durnell has devoted much of her career being involved in many organizations, committees, workshops and programs, including being a photography instructor at the Walsworth Summer Workshop and an instructor at the Academy of Scholastic Broadcast Summer Workshop.

Ms. Connie Ficken is a school counselor at Lee’s Summit High School. She taught secondary English for five years before becoming a professional school counselor at Lee’s Summit High School for the past 20 years. Connie is currently serving as the Lead High School Counselor for the District. She has served on the Lee’s Summit High School leadership team for 19 years along with multiple other leadership roles at the building and district levels throughout her tenure. Ms. Ficken is a former recipient of the LSR7 Learning for Life Award and also a prior recipient of the LS CARES/Mayor’s Character Award. She has attended many workshops and been a presenter at numerous workshops for parents and staff members. Connie has been involved in a number of school and civic activities including volunteering for the Blue Springs Job Olympics and assisting with “To Write Love On Her Arms” Suicide Prevention Community Night at LSHS.

Mr. Andrew Hookie is a sixth grade teacher at Sunset Valley Elementary School. He has spent the past 15 years teaching, with six of those in the Lee’s Summit School District. Andrew has served as team member and facilitator of various building and district teams and committees. He has a passion for volunteering and is the founder of a Gentlemen’s Lunch Brunch at Sunset Valley for boys to work on peer relationships, engage in conversation, problem solve, learn to tie a tie, etc. In addition, Andrew created a before-school club to tutor in math. He is an LSR7 Leadership Academy graduate and enjoys being a part of a team that supports our beginning teachers in their professional growth and development. Andrew has attended numerous conferences and workshops and also assists in the planning and implementation of professional development for the district’s elementary teachers.

Ms. April Jackson is a fourth grade teacher at Prairie View Elementary. She has been teaching for 18 years with the last 14 in the LSR7 school district. Ms. Jackson has served on several state, district and building teams including as a teacher representative on the Q&A panel for the Leader in Me Symposium, serving on the Family Leadership Committee to build relationships in our community and for the past five years has served on the LSR7 Nutrition Council. April is also the lead teacher for the Prairie View video production club. She is a promoter of community involvement and the importance of giving back through community service. Each year her class participates in a community service project. They have made pillows, donated books and school supplies. Ms. Jackson also enjoys building relationships with her students and families by going to many of their extra curricular activities outside of school.

Mr. Matthew Ketteman is a vocal music teacher at Longview Farm Elementary School. He has been teaching for 17 years and has been sharing his passion for music in the LSR7 school district for six years; one year at Prairie View Elementary and the last five at Longview Farm Elementary. He was selected to perform the national anthem with the Longview Farm Elementary Stallion Singer Choir for the Kansas City Royals in April. He also coordinates annually with the Kansas City Symphony to bring third grade students to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in a collaborative performance. Outside school, Matthew enjoys providing live music performances along with DJ services to multiple charities and LSR7 schools. Mr. Ketteman also coaches and organizes the Longview Farm Stallion archery team to compete in regional and statewide competitions. He founded an annual charity archery tournament to support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Ms. Niki Stanley is a speech and theatre teacher at Pleasant Lea Middle School. Niki has taught for 17 years, including two years teaching English at Lee’s Summit North High School before moving to PLMS. Ms. Stanley is a lifelong resident of Lee’s Summit and currently teaches in the same building where she developed her love for the theatre arts. She has directed 15 theatrical productions with casts of 60-100 students since 2006. Ms. Stanley serves on various teams at both district and building levels, including the district’s Multi-Tiered Systems and Support (MTSS) team, evaluating strategies to address the district’s big picture of interventions and support. Ms. Stanley has also been responsible for collaboratively writing and implementing R-7’s middle school speech and theatre curriculum. She is a charter member of the first PLMS Vision team, responsible for crafting and implementing the current mission and vision statements that reflect the building’s core values. As a member of the Leading our Community team at PLMS, she has been a part of successfully organizing and implementing a senior send-off tradition.

Mrs. Angie Thurmond is a traveling elementary band teacher at Greenwood, Longview Farm, Trailridge and Pleasant Lea Elementary Schools. She has taught all of her 18-year career in the Lee’s Summit School District. Angie travels to these four schools across the district, setting up her band classes in libraries, basements, cafeterias and gyms. Outside of school, Angie and her family are very involved in their church, as well as volunteering to teach music for charities and volunteering time with some of the secondary band programs in the district. Each summer she enjoys helping to make lunches for many LSR7 students through her work with Coldwater. Angie has been the recipient of two PEAK grants from the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation and has been nominated in prior years for Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Molly Williamson is a third grade teacher at Lee’s Summit Elementary School. She has taught for six years, all at LSE and has spent her entire life in the Lee’s Summit School District, including her K-12 education, being the first graduating class of Lee’s Summit West High School. Molly has been an advocate for flexible grouping since she first began teaching, implementing voice and choice with flexible seating, flexible groupings and student learning choices. She assisted in creating and piloting the district’s first flexible grouping for all grade levels. Ms. Williamson’s professional development includes both district and building involvement. She is a district Schoology representative, a team member of MTSS, a First Year Teacher mentor and participates on her building’s vision and leadership teams. She has attended numerous workshops and takes advantage of in-district continuing education. Molly continues to service her community outside of the classroom through many outreach programs including Hope House and as an Optimist member.

Joining the twelve Excellence In Teaching Award winners are three Teachers Of Distinction, teachers who have previously been awarded the Excellence In Teaching recognition and have been nominated again for Teacher of the Year. Teachers of Distinction include Linda Driskill, Cedar Creek Elementary; Jamie Harrell, Hawthorn Hill Elementary School, and Melinda Moylan, Hazel Grove Elementary School.

Linda Driskill

Mrs. Linda Driskill is a fourth grade teacher at Cedar Creek Elementary School. She has a 28-year career in teaching and has been in the Lee’s Summit School District for 15 of those years. Linda has received two outdoor classroom grants from the Missouri Conservation Department and also co-authored a PEAK grant to improve literacy workshops for third and fourth graders. At the beginning of her career, Linda was named “Outstanding Beginning Missouri Teacher” from Lindenwood University and recognized by the governor at the state capitol. Due to the district’s literacy initiative, Mrs. Driskill partnered with Nationwide Learning Company so that Cedar Creek Elementary students would find enjoyment in writing for a purpose and have an opportunity to become published authors. Her social studies students produced a book about Missouri and won first place in a national contest. Today, Nationwide is continuing to use their book as a sample for other teachers. Linda plans to stay active in giving back to her community by pursuing opportunities to serve the greater Kansas City children and their families through the Make a Wish Foundation. She also plans to volunteer her time with the Lee’s Summit Chamber, continue her work with Eastland Giving Circle, help CCE with AimsWeb+ assessments and assist with her husband’s company, Driskill Business Development Group, Inc.

Mrs. Jamie Harrel is a first grade teacher at Hawthorn Hill Elementary School. She has been teaching for 18 years, 10 of those in the Lee’s Summit School District. She serves as a representative on a number of building and district committees including curriculum and assessment writing teams. Recently, she launched an after school STEM club for students in grades K-3. Mrs. Harrel has been awarded four PEAK grants by the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation. Outside of school, Jamie and her children have been volunteering for the Coldwater summer lunch program since 2014, which prepares 100-150 sack lunches for 10 weeks for children throughout the Lee’s Summit community. For several years now, Jamie has been a member of the Kansas City Zoo Teacher Advisory Board which meets to improve zoo educational programs for students in the KC Metro area. Mrs. Harrel was a recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018.

Ms. Melinda Moylan is a fourth grade teacher at Hazel Grove Elementary School and has been teaching in the district for 17 years. She received the Excellence in Teaching award previously in 2014. Melinda is currently a member of the behavior team at HGE, which focuses on helping students learn missing social skills and providing structure to help all students become successful in school and life. She is also a member of HGE’s family team, which is charged with providing activities for their students and staff that make the school feel like a family, including a Camp Out for Reading, as well as many social opportunities for the staff. Mrs. Moylan enjoys keeping up with her former students and observing their awards and recognitions with letters of encouragement to continue their pursuit of excellence. She likes to refer to herself as part Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus series, with numerous pets, giant hornet nests and shelves full of amazing science samplings to pique students’ interests.

The announcement of the 2020 Teacher of the Year will be made Tuesday, May 12th.