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Staff of the year announced

With the 2017-18 school year winding down, three Hutchinson Public Schools staff members have received district honors.

Barbara Cooper, paraprofessional at Faris Elementary School, has been named Classified Employee of the Year. Ashleigh Vieyra, third grade teacher at Graber Elementary, and Janie Patterson, accounting teacher at Hutchinson High School, have been nominated as the district’s entries in the Kansas National Teacher of the Year competition.

Still to be named are the Davis Teachers of the Year. The Davis Foundation will formally announce finalists and winners at the district’s back-to-school convocation in August.

Barbara Cooper

Classified Employee of the Year

Faris Resource Room Paraprofessional

Barbara CooperSitting in a classroom, surrounded by kindergartners at Faris, what advice would Barbara Cooper offer the 5- and 6-year olds when they graduate from high school in 2030?

“Don’t give up,” she said. “Always give your best effort. Always be kind to each other.”

Cooper has been a paraprofessional for USD 308 since 1990. Much of that time, she has helped students with special needs, but she’s also been a para in a middle school family and consumer science classroom.

The educators has liked teaching as far back as she can remember. Growing up in Wichita, she was the teacher when she played school with her siblings. Her third and fourth grade teacher saw her artistic promise and had her create bulletin boards for the classroom. She later would teach Sunday School for many years.

She still loves art. For several years, she worked at Hutchinson Middle School – 7 as the FACS aide. Even though she was not actually in the art classroom, art teacher Debbie Mullins would open up early so Cooper could spend some time creating.

Yet Cooper loves kids even more than art.

“I always wanted the kids to feel like they were special,” she said. “Their gifts and their talents are important. I never want a child to feel like they are not important in school because of me.”

She and her husband of 47 years, John, have two children – both Hutchinson High School graduates – and seven grandchildren.

Cooper was moved earlier this spring by a surprise assembly at Faris. Classes had quietly created posters and cards to celebrate her being named Classified Employee of the Year and presented those to her at the assembly.

The other two finalists for Classified Employee of the Year were Joey Schneider, teacher assistant at the Hutcherson Center, and Sherry Treece, library media assistant at Hutchinson Middle School – 7.

Other top-10 candidates were Jamie Brown, payroll/benefits coordinator at the Administration Center; Sarah Kovach, resource room at Wiley; Dorothy McAllister, functional paraprofessional at Hutchinson High School; Suzann Shea, resource room at Graber; Peggy Sneath, library media assistant at Faris; Terry Sunner, treasurer at HHS; and Robin Traffas, resource room at HHS. In all, 30 classified employees were nominated this year.

Ashleigh Vieyra

Elementary Teacher of the Year Nominee

Graber Third Grade Teacher

Ashleigh VieyraAs an elementary teacher, Ashleigh Vieyra preps out lesson plans for reading, math, science and other core subjects to teach between 7:50 a.m. and 3:10 p.m.

But when many other staff members are turning their attention to the next day’s lesson plans, most days Vieyra finds herself working with an entirely different age of student – high school. Vieyra is both a third grade teacher at Graber Elementary School and cheer coach for Hutchinson High School.

Vieyra has been active in both Graber, where she currently teaches, and at Wiley, her previous school. She is an active member of Graber’s Teacher Leadership Team. She also served on the Teacher Leadership Team at Wiley as well.

In both her roles, Vieyra realizes diversity must be understood.

“One of the most critical needs facing public education is the diversity of all our students, and the issues they bring to school with them each morning,” she said in her application for the award. “A lot of our students are coming from broken homes, substance abuse, poverty, physical/verbal abuse, etc., and are expected to just leave those things behind them once they walk into our door, which we know doesn’t happen.”

In addition to the Kansas Teacher of the Year nomination, Vieyra has been nominated in the past for Davis Teacher of the Year, winning that award in 2014.

One of the individuals nominating Vieyra was one of her high school students.

“I only hear amazing things about her from everyone,” wrote HHS sophomore Evann Deal. “She cares about every single one of her students.”

Janie Patterson

Secondary Teacher of the Year Nominee

Hutchinson High School Accounting Teacher

Janie PattersonWhen Janie Patterson started at Hutchinson High School in the early 1990s, spreadsheets were just coming of age. While spreadsheet and other software has changed the techniques used in accounting, students’ need to understand personal finance remains a passion for the educator.

In fact, her work at HHS has led to a practical change in graduation requirements for future Salthawks.

“We adopted Dave Ramsey personal finance curriculum and submitted a proposal to require a personal finance course for graduation,” Patterson said in her application. “This was recently approved and will be required for the class of 2022 forward. This can make a huge impact on all our students and community.”

Patterson is chair of the Business Department at HHS, leading and supporting a team of six educators. She also is a member of the Accounting Pilot and Bridge Program training team. This team takes her across the country in the summer, helping educators implement a more rigorous and relevant accounting curriculum.

For Patterson, families are a key challenge in education.

“I believe the most crucial issue in education is families,” she wrote. “This breakdown causes our students to suffer from poverty, neglect, abuse and addictions. Schools provide a support system for students’ academic social and emotional wellbeing. Great teachers know that by building relationships, showing empathy and continually encouraging our students, we help them believe in themselves.”

In nominating her, HHS sophomore Cassie Vogel said she appreciated Patterson’s care for students.

“She always helps you when you need it,” Vogel wrote. “She will push you, and she cares for her students a lot.”