Each year, Shawnee Mission School District nominates one primary and one secondary educator to represent the district in the Kansas Horizon Awards Program. This Kansas State Department of Education recognition is given to honor outstanding first-year teachers who are paving the way for a new generation of educators.
This year, Brennan Mills, an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Indian Woods Middle School, and Liz Palmer, a second-grade teacher at Rosehill Elementary School, are the district's nominees.
Palmer was described by Rosehill leaders as a professional, warm presence with admirable problem-solving skills.
“Foundational relationship-building is her focus - because of this, parents and guardians feel just as safe in their communication with Ms. Palmer as her students feel being in her class. She is an outstanding teacher, role model, and peer, and will be a positive force at Rosehill for years to come,” Jennifer Duke, Rosehill Elementary principal, and Brain Quick, Rosehill Elementary administrative intern, shared in a joint written statement.
“If I were to give advice to a first-year teacher, I would tell them to be confident, give yourself grace, and see the good in all things,” Palmer said. “Your mindset is everything, and at the end of the day we have the opportunity to be involved in children’s lives in a way that no other career gets to.”
Lacy Warren, principal at Indian Hills Middle School, highlighted the unique ways Mills promotes learning at home and connects with students and parents.
“Mr. Mills goes above and beyond to communicate with the families of his students,” explained Warren. “He sent a weekly parent email that communicated what the students had learned that week and what to expect in the upcoming week. He would then add an extra benefit and add conversation questions for parents to use with their students to open the dialogue in their household about their learning.”
“My advice to beginning teachers is to remind yourself to accept that everything will not be under your control but that you can always control how you treat the students that cross the threshold of your door – so treat them to the highest respect,” Mills said.
The two were surprised with their nominations by district administrators earlier this week.
Mills and Palmer will now be considered to be Kansas Horizon Award recipients. The Kansas State Department of Education will ultimately select 32 teachers across the state to be Horizon Award winners. That group of second-year educators will be asked to attend the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network (KEEN) conference in February, where they will be recognized for their outstanding work during their first year of teaching.