KToY banquet trophy & program.
Tonight was the state awards banquet for Kansas Teacher of the Year in Wichita, Kansas. I was one of eight finalists statewide recognize for that achievement, the only one of whom was male, which has become a point of humor more than once already.

As a finalist for Kansas Teacher of the Year, I will now have the opportunity to join with the other finalists at numerous appearances to advocate for the teaching profession, as well as working with current and preservice educators, across the state of Kansas. I look forward to the opportunities to speak with legislators, administrators, and community members across the state as part of this program.

Having met and spoke with teachers who have already been part of this program in the past, I have had the chance to see what a substantial impact being a finalist for Teacher of the Year can have on one's teaching styles.

As part of the banquet tonight, time was given to introduce each of the finalist teachers and describe some of the characteristics that made them suitable for finalist for Kansas Teacher of the Year. After their introduction, time was given for each teacher to make some remarks about their role in education, their experiences in teaching, or what a typical day in their classroom might look like. Below, please find the comments I made in my time to expound upon my teaching experiences and what led me to choose a career in the teaching profession.

Gypsum Hills, south-central Kansas
   After having the opportunity to work as a teacher's aide as a junior in high school, I'd found a career path. Tiger Woods would have to hold things down on the PGA Tour himself. I was abandoning that pursuit to become a math teacher.

   I had the opportunity with a summer job to work alongside Mr. Ferguson and Vern, a pair of my teachers I learned under just a few years before.  We were setting roof joists on a shelter house in the Gypsum Hills of southern Kansas. As we worked, I had an opportunity to talk about my career path with Vern (Mr. Buell was far too formal a term for him to accept), my legendary and influential math teacher during my sophomore year. He didn't exactly share the secret of  life, but made a funny comment about Mr. Ferguson, the social studies teacher who was working on the roof with us. He said "Now, Max is a social studies teacher, so we have to talk a little slower with all our measurin' so he can keep up."

   With a few years teaching experience now under my belt, I'd like to try and paraphrase that comment: Teachers are all in this together. We can't just focus solely on how well a student can write a summary paper, or map out a chemical reaction, or solve an equation involving some really intimidating-looking fractions.

My alter-ego, Slope-R Mario.
   So now, in my classroom, we work to incorporate real-life experiences with students to make topics much more engaging and long-lasting than a bunch of numbers on a textbook page. It might involve creating a giant Jenga game made from 2 x 6's, or creating a Sierpinski triangle out of pennies in the school parking lot, or how we determined if students' backpacks were a tolerable weight by doctors' recommendations, or even result in my wearing overalls and a fake moustache to take on the persona of Super Mario so students get the topic of slope.

   Regardless of their topic, time, or trade, I strive to make learning relevant to my students, whatever their background or career path. Learning experiences among my students can read almost like a collection of inside jokes, where "you had to be there." With the mentality that "we have fun, but we get stuff done," students take with them a collection of experiences we shared together.

   I do have to admit, about a year ago when I had the chance to work on the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition house outside of Ottawa, Kansas, I was taken back to that day on the roof with Mr. Ferguson and Vern. I found myself working again on roofing joists, just down the wall from a pair of men who were working on the same task. When I heard them bickering about fractions and how to properly space some beams, I was ready to help them out. But like Vern said, I had to make sure to talk a little slower with all the measurin' so they could keep up."

Thank you.

I hope you look forward to hearing about  my adventures as a part of the Kansas Teacher of the Year Team as much as I look forward to sharing them. Stay tuned.


How my high school friends picture a math teacher.
So, this past Sunday, September 9th, I was named the Region 3 Secondary Level Kansas Teacher of the Year and proceed as one of eight finalists to be considered for Kansas Teacher of the Year.

Leading up to this past Sunday's banquet, nominees from the region's school districts were asked to have a 2-3 minute acceptance speech prepared in the event they were named the Finalist for our region. Not expecting to be THAT teacher, I prepared a brief collection of "thank you"s and a short reflection on what brought me to be a math teacher. I promise, the graphic at left will make more sense in a little bit.

Anyhow, my acceptance speech went like this:
First off, I need to thank my wife who is sitting over here...about 24 miles west of here with our daughters, earning more points for her Mother of the Year title. Without her support, I would not be able to do this job I enjoy so much. I am truly a lucky man to have her in my life.

I would like to thank Security Benefit for their sponsorship for this recognition program for educators in the state of Kansas and the State Department of Education for their willingness and ability to put on one heck of a party tonight.

Well, here goes...

Teachers need students, but moreso students need teachers. As the son of two teachers, I have all my life been part of a community of learning. From the Home Economics teacher who plumped me up with a hefty diet of French fries as a toddler--OBVIOUSLY (author's note: I've put on about ten pounds since age 2 and just grown straight up to my tall, lanky stature I currently possess)--to the math teacher who balanced me, and every other teacher's newborn baby, standing upright on his hand like some ill-conceived circus sideshow, I have always been a part of a community of learning.

And that math teacher, Mr. Vernon Buell--the one who wore overalls to class on a regular basis and such that I have worn more neckties TONIGHT than he did in his career--served as my vessel by which I was to become a high school math teacher myself.

You see, when I graduated high school, my church invited seniors up to the altar to be recognized by the congregation and say a few words about their name, where they planned to attend college, their intended major, and career goals. When it came my turn at the microphone, I stated "Hello, I'm Scott Keltner, I plan to major in mathematics education at Cowley County Community College, and intend to become a math teacher to become the next Vernon Buell."

I felt encouraged when a laugh came over the audience, but Vern was serving as an usher that Sunday and stuck his head through the back doors of the sanctuary and boomed loudly 
"You can try like [heck], boy, but they ain't never made another one like me."

How true.

And so now, I've found myself as a teacher loving what I do. That love must have rubbed off on my students, as the past two weeks has brought three current and former students to tell me of their plans to become a math teacher themselves, saying they were partly influenced by me.

And although I know it would be a stretch of the truth, I'd love to tell THEM "You can try like [heck[, kid, but they ain't never made another one like me."

I think all teachers are somehow influenced by a former teacher we had in class, or encountered somewhere along the way. Vern (my high school math teacher in Medicine Lodge, Kansas) obviously has had some substantial influence on my career path, as well as the stubbornness I think I've acquired over the years. My "Methods of Teaching Mathematics" professor was Dr. Connie Schrock and she made a great impact on some of the habits I have in the classroom, but also managed to coerce me into taking a date to a PTO BINGO Night because she needed volunteers to work the event, saying since I was on the college's tennis team at the time, it would be like having "celebrity BINGO callers." Not being able to find a good enough excuse to get out of it (and having survived the guilt trip when Dr. Schrock accused me of lying that I had a date, which was in itself demeaning enough because it had been a pretty slow semester or two for my love life), I took the date to BINGO Night. Needless to say, that date is not now my wife, although Dr. Schrock did do a good job of talking to her and building me up, saying what a great guy I was among many other great compliments. Or, at least that's what she told me she was saying to her.

Nevertheless, if you get a chance to thank a teacher, although today is far away from Teacher Appreciation Day (Tuesday, May 7, 2013 is this year's observance), take the opportunity to tell them how much of an impact they make and how the world can "try like [heck], but they ain't never gonna make another one like them."