Saturday, November 01, 2014

First-year teacher ‘awestruck’ by state recognition

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 1/10/2014

The tears began to flow Thursday morning as Kerby Cornett tried to process the news that she had just been named one of the top young elementary school teachers in the state of Kansas.

“I’m awestruck right now,” Cornett, who teaches third grade at Eugene Field Elementary School, 720 Tremont Ave., Ottawa, said.

The tears began to flow Thursday morning as Kerby Cornett tried to process the news that she had just been named one of the top young elementary school teachers in the state of Kansas.

“I’m awestruck right now,” Cornett, who teaches third grade at Eugene Field Elementary School, 720 Tremont Ave., Ottawa, said.

The second-year teacher was seated with Jeanne Stroh, Ottawa school superintendent, and Shannon Fanning, Eugene Field principal, in Fanning’s office when the principal took a telephone call and put it on speaker phone.

Diane DeBacker, Kansas Commissioner of Education, came on the line and she soon surprised Cornett, telling her she had been named a Horizon Award winning teacher for the state of Kansas. The award recognizes a select group of first-year teachers who demonstrate excellence in the classroom. Sixteen elementary teachers from across the state were selected to receive the 2014 Horizon Award, which honors first-year teachers from the 2012-2013 school year.

“Kerby, you are part of a very select group,” DeBacker said. “We are so honored and so proud of you.”

Stroh told DeBacker she had visited Cornett’s classroom several times.

“It’s such a delightful place to be, so warm and inviting,” Stroh said. “The kids ask questions, and [Cornett] does wonderful, wonderful work each and every day, and we are just proud and honored to have her in this district at Eugene Field.”

Cornett, who did not know about the announcement in advance, said she was at a loss for words.

“Wow,” Cornett said after the call. “It’s awesome. It’s an honor, and I love what I’m doing. I might start crying all over again.”

Cornett was nominated in October by a group of her peers and administrators for the award. School districts across the state nominate an elementary teacher and a secondary teacher for the award, with a state committee determining the Horizon winners. Cornett and the other winners will be honored during a luncheon at the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network conference Feb. 21 in Topeka.

Growing up on a farm near Fontana, Cornett earned her teaching degree from Emporia State University in 2010. During a fall interview when she was nominated for the award, Cornett said the most rewarding part of teaching was the look on children’s faces when they understand what is being taught.

“That light bulb moment when the child gets it — whether it’s right then in that lesson or two weeks down the road — is gratifying,” Cornett said. “It’s making that connection. I’m thankful for those light bulb moments.”

Fanning, who already knew Cornett had won the award and was awaiting the call Tuesday morning, said she had a difficult time keeping it a secret.

“All along, we’ve seen great things in her, so it’s really exciting that she is getting recognized at a much higher and more distinguished level,” Fanning said.

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