Johnson County has a reputation for top-notch public schools. Now, two Johnson County teachers are proving that they are among the best educators in the state.
Anna Sahadeo, a second-grade teacher at the De Soto School District’s Riverview Elementary in Shawnee, and Kristoffer Barikmo, a social studies teacher at Blue Valley High School in Overland Park, have been named Region 3 finalists for the prestigious 2016 Kansas Teacher of the Year award. The award recognizes excellence in teaching among elementary and secondary teachers.
The honors were announced recently at a ceremony in Overland Park, which recognized all six of the semi-finalists from Region 3, which covers the 3rd U.S. congressional district.
The region’s semi-finalists included Dustin Springer, a fifth-grade teacher at Blue Valley’s Valley Park Elementary School in Overland Park; Kimberley A. Montini, a first-grade teacher at Mark Twain Elementary School in the Kansas City, Kan., School District; Edward Franco, a 12-grade economics and sociology teacher at F. L. Schlagle High School in the Kansas City, Kansas School District, and Sheree Stoppel, a high school music teacher at the De Soto School District’s Mill Valley High School in Shawnee.
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Both Sahadeo and Barikmo say they were flattered to be singled out as finalists for their work from among such an impressive group of educators.
“I am just so honored because I teach among so many fabulous teachers,” Sahadeo said. “The fact that they thought so highly of me and to hear your name called is a wonderful feeling.”
“I was surprised,” Barikmo said. “I don’t feel like I do anything over the top, I just try to make connections with the kids and for the kids to make connections with what I teach. And for someone along the way to have noticed that is a very special thing and also very humbling.”
Teachers are nominated from each of the four regions in the state and then narrowed down to six semi-finalists from each region; three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers. One elementary finalist and one secondary finalist are then selected from each region.
Sahadeo and Barikmo each received a $2,000 cash award and will be two of eight regional finalists to compete for the Kansas Teacher of the Year title, which will be announced Nov. 21 at a ceremony in Wichita.
Nominations for both Sahadeo and Barikmo began in their individual school buildings. Each then underwent a thorough application process that involved essays, videos of them teaching and interviews with selection committee members.
Sahadeo and Barikmo will now get to travel the state with their fellow regional finalists, where they will spend time learning about each other’s classrooms.
Even though he’s been named one of the best educators in the state, Barikmo, who has taught government and economics classes at Blue Valley High School since 2012, said he wants to continue to find new ways to improve his classroom.
“I am excited to see what Kansas education looks like across the state and to bring those practices back to my classroom and school,” Barikmo said. “I get to learn from those other seven teachers about what they are doing and to have conversations about good teaching and what that looks like.”
Sahadeo, who has been teaching at Riverview Elementary for the past four years of her 13-year teaching career, said she is grateful for the recognition that she’s received as a regional finalist for the Kansas Teacher of the Year award. Like most teachers, she said she went into the profession to help kids and not for the accolades. But the recognition is nice.
“Both of my parents started off as teachers and they are very proud,” Sahadeo said. “And it warms my heart because as teachers we don’t always receive recognition. I appreciate it, I truly do.”
Sahadeo and Barikmo said they couldn’t imagine a more rewarding career than teaching.
“Every day is different, every year is different,” Sahadeo said. “I love the challenge and I never get bored.”
“I love the fact that every single day, students can walk into my classroom and be ready to talk about politics and issues of economics and the world they are experiencing,” Barikmo said. “It is a powerful thing to them.”
Sara Beane: firstname.lastname@example.org