2022 Kansas Horizon Award Program Recognizes 32 First-Year Educators


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TOPEKA — Thirty-two first-year educators from Kansas are being recognized for their outstanding teaching skills through the 2022 Kansas Horizon Award program.

The 2022 Kansas Horizon Award recipients were recently announced by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE).

The Kansas Horizon Award program, sponsored by KSDE, gives all school districts in the state an opportunity to nominate one elementary and one secondary teacher for the award. To be eligible for the award, 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 corresponding to the state’s U.S. congressional districts. Four elementary and four secondary classroom teachers may be selected for the award from each region.

Recipients of the 2022 Kansas Horizon Award were notified of their selection by Kansas

Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson.

“Each of these recipients has demonstrated their dedication to the teaching profession, and we are extremely fortunate to have them in our Kansas classrooms,” Watson said. “Outstanding educators like these help us move closer to our vision of leading the world in the success of each student.”


Region 1

  • Katie Buhler, West Elementary School, Wamego Unified School District 320.
  • McKenzie Heft, Council Grove Elementary School, Morris County USD 417.
  • Lindsey Kepka, Hutchinson Virtual School, Hutchinson USD 308.
  • Nicole Menard, Buhler High School, Buhler USD 313.
  • Christine Pianalto, McPherson High School, McPherson USD 418.
  • Katelyn Stoss, Plum Creek Elementary School, Buhler USD 313.
  • Jazzmyn Tolbert, Graber Elementary School, Hutchinson USD 308.
  • Thomas Tryon, Washington County High School, Washington County USD 108.

Region 2

  • Sonny Bourne, Paola Middle School, Paola USD 368.
  • Julia Gloss, Shawnee Heights Middle School, Shawnee Heights USD 450.
  • Taylor Holmer, Northern Hills Elementary School, Seaman USD 345.
  • Emma Joens, Berryton Elementary School, Shawnee Heights USD 450.
  • Amanda Schafers, Topeka High School, Topeka USD 501.
  • Ivan Torres, Washburn Rural High School, Auburn-Washburn USD 437.
  • Mellisa Wilson, Central Heights Elementary School, Central Heights USD 288.
  • Austen Witte, State Street Elementary School, Topeka USD 501.

Region 3

  • Rose Bentley, Rockville Elementary School, Louisburg USD 416.
  • Alec Cowley, Piper Creek Elementary School, Piper USD 203.
  • Alyson Daniels, Spring Hill Early Learning Academy, Spring Hill USD 230.
  • Perlita Dominguez, Frank Rushton Elementary School, Kansas City USD 500.
  • Bailey Eisenbraun, Turner Middle School, Turner USD 202.
  • Zachary Johnson, Blue Valley West High School, Blue Valley USD 229.
  • Anna Meissbach, Monticello Trails Middle School, De Soto USD 232.
  • Lauren Sage, F.L. Schlagle High School, Kansas City USD 500.

Region 4

  • Jordan Camfield, Maize South Elementary School, Maize USD 266.
  • Kassie Campidilli, Goddard High School, Goddard USD 265.
  • Emily Crawford, Northridge Elementary School, Newton USD 373.
  • Lindsay Hincher, Hesston Middle School, Hesston USD 460.
  • Madison Hines Schmoll, Andover Middle School, Andover USD 385.
  • Alexandra McDowell, McLean Science and Technology Magnet Elementary School, Wichita USD 259.
  • Kynnedy Myers, Ewalt Elementary School, Augusta USD 402.
  • Erin Williams, Smoky Valley High School, Smoky Valley USD 400.

As recipients of the Kansas Horizon Award, these educators are invited to join the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network (KEEN), a network of educators from around the state who have been formally recognized for exemplary performance. Members of KEEN have an opportunity to network with other outstanding educators and participate in several professional development programs throughout the year.               

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Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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