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Kansas' eight best public school teachers visit Bethel education students

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Teacher education students at Bethel College were treated to an interterm visit from the 2016 Kansas Teacher of the Year (KTOY) Team.

Kansas Teacher of the Year for 2016 Justin Coffey, a high school math teacher from Dodge City USD 443, leads the group, which also comprises the seven runners-up.

The KTOY Team gets release time to visit schools around the state as well as to meet with groups of future teachers such as the one at Bethel.

In their Jan. 18 visit to Bethel, team members talked about a number of “characteristics of great teachers,” with each focusing on a specific one, including stories and examples from their own classrooms about he or she accomplished that.

Some common denominators included “building relationships” and “active learning.”

Nona Mason, a kindergarten teacher from Goodland USD 352, had the group try the same activity her students do every morning, which involves greeting and saying hello to everyone else in the class.

“The relationships I build with my students are important,” she said. “The relationships they build among themselves are just as important.”

Shelly Jennings, who teaches 2nd grade in Maize USD 266, described the social contract that each class at her school, Maize South Elementary, develops.

“It’s about relationships and building them,” she said, as well as about “classroom culture and school culture.”

“Discover what [the culture] is where you go to student teach,” she told the Bethel students. “Take notes. Decide what you want your classroom culture to be – how do you want [your students] to feel when they leave?”

Regarding active learning, Kristoffer Barikmo, a high school social studies teacher from Blue Valley USD 229, noted while having the group do an activity with Legos: “Activity before content is a big part – take that with you to high school teaching.”

“It’s not ‘knowledge equals power,’” said Lucinda Crenshaw, a middle-school science teacher from Lawrence USD 497. “It’s ‘knowledge plus action equals power.’”

The other members of the 2016 KTOY Team are Sheila Koup, high school English teacher from Eureka USD 389, Jolene Pennington, 5th-grade teacher from Paola USD 368, and Anna Sahadeo, 2nd-grade teacher from De Soto USD 232.

The KTOY Team reached out to Bethel College’s teacher education department, said Lisa Janzen Scott, Bethel associate professor of mathematics and teacher education.

“One of the team’s target audiences is teacher education students, so they contacted me as director of the Bethel program,” she said.

“The KTOY team is always full of energy and creative ideas for teaching, and that energy fuels our students’ desire to become educators themselves,” she said.

“Each KTOY team member approaches teaching a little differently, so our students get to see eight different styles, all of which are successful.

“Several of the strategies highlighted in the presentation have made their way into class discussions this week, so I know it had an impact on our students.”

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2015-16 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2015-16. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.