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Teaching alumni receive state education department awards

February 2nd, 2021

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Two alumni were honored by the Kansas State Department of Education for exemplary work in their first year of teaching.

Elizabeth Ratzlaff and Nick Preheim are among 32 educators from Kansas whom the KSDE announced Jan. 7 as recipients of 2021 Kansas Horizon Awards.

Ratzlaff grew up attending Moundridge schools in USD 423, and now teaches English Language Arts at Moundridge Middle School.

Preheim is also a product of Kansas schools, having attended Peabody-Burns, USD 398. He teaches first grade at Hutchinson STEM Magnet School at Allen, USD 308.

Announcing Preheim’s award, his school’s Facebook page said, “Our kiddos adore you, Mr. Preheim – we are so stinkin’ proud to call you ours!,” while the comments on Moundridge Facebook announcement of Ratzlaff’s award showed similar sentiment.

Both Ratzlaff and Preheim graduated from Bethel College in 2019, and are now in their second year of teaching.

Horizon Award nominations are made in the fall, after completion of the first year.

KSDE sponsors the Kansas Horizon Award program, inviting all school districts in the state to nominate one elementary and one secondary teacher.

Eligible teachers must have successfully completed their first year of teaching and have performed in such a way as to distinguish themselves as outstanding.

The program is a regional competition, with four regions that correspond to the state’s U.S. congressional districts. Four elementary and four secondary classroom teachers may be selected for the award from each region.

Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education, notified the 2021 Kansas Horizon Award winners of their selection.

“I want to commend these outstanding educators,” Watson said. “Thanks to the pandemic, this group has experienced anything but a typical first year in the teaching profession.

“And to be singled out by their districts for their extraordinary performance makes me both proud and excited to have them in Kansas classrooms.”

As recipients of the Kansas Horizon Award, these educators are invited to join the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network (KEEN), comprising educators from around the state who have been formally recognized for outstanding performance.

Members of KEEN have an opportunity to talk with and learn from other outstanding educators and to participate in several professional development programs throughout the year.

Each awardee will receive a cash award sponsored by the Capitol Federal Foundation

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #14 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #26 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, and earned its third-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Gold Award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2020-21; is’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to; and is #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities named by as “Best for Financial Aid,” as well as #23 “Safest College Towns in the U.S.,” ranked by for 2020-21. For more information, see

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.