The Raymore-Peculiar School District has named Jennifer Vacca as its 2019 Teacher of the Year. The Support Staff Employee of the Year is Corrie Posey.
Posey is the cafeteria manager at Stonegate Elementary School. Vacca is in her first year as a special education teacher at Eagle Glen Elementary School after teaching fourth and fifth grades in the district for 17 years.
The awards were announced at a dinner on April 10. Vacca will be the district’s nominee for Missouri Teacher of the Year.
Before going to Ray-Pec in 1999, Vacca spent three years at the Della Lamb Charter School in Kansas City as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher and curriculum coordinator. Vacca’s mother always told her she needed to be a teacher when she grew up, and Vacca never considered anything else.
“I love the bond I develop with the kids throughout the school year,” she said. “There’s nothing better than running into or hearing from a previous student, and hearing all they’ve done in their life and to think I was a small part of that.”
She was nominated by two students and by Special Education Teacher Jacque Underwood, who said she already is proving to be “rock star” in special education.
“Jennifer is a collaborator. She goes to great lengths to meet with the classroom teachers on their plan time so that she always knows what is going on in the general education classroom,” Underwood said.
“It is easy to see that she cares, and the relationship she has with her students, current and past, is just amazing. She understands that each child is unique and has needs that are not just academic.”
Posey is in her eighth year in Ray-Pec and has spent all but one at Stonegate, where she is famous for making cinnamon rolls on Fridays.
“She took time to rebrand her serving area by painting fruit and vegetable characters, making the space fun and inviting for students,” Child Nutrition Director Sarah Chellberg said. “She even added the Stonegate Stingray mascot complete with a chef hat.”
Posey said she also decorates for holidays and special events. Last Christmas, she introduced an Elf on the Shelf pair named Tator and Tot.
“My job is to make sure each child and staff member that comes through my cafeteria has a nutritious tasty meal, but a meal is only part of what I try to give to our kids,” Posey wrote. “Sometimes it’s a hug they need to get through a tough day.”
She acknowledged that she once felt embarrassed to say she work in a school cafeteria, a job sometimes viewed as degrading. No longer.
“Yeah, being a lunch lady is a pretty cool job.”