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Rhonda Allen named JCPS Teacher of the Year

by Phillip Sitter | April 28, 2017 at 3:40 a.m. | Updated April 28, 2017 at 5:39 p.m.
Rhonda Allen, left, reacts to being named 2017 Teacher of the Year as her mother, Saundra Allen, right, celebrates with her Thursday during the annual Jefferson City Public School banquet at Lewis and Clark Middle School.

Rhonda Allen is Jefferson City Public Schools' teacher of the year, announced at the 25th annual JCPS Teacher Appreciation Banquet on Thursday evening, at Lewis and Clark Middle School.

Allen is a fourth-grade teacher at Thorpe Gordon Elementary School.

"I was really surprised," she said of receiving the latest Eisinger Teacher of the Year award. She said she would give some of her $1,000 prize money back to her school.

She said in an introductory video her classroom is not a traditional one; she likes to incorporate music.

She also said while learning is obviously important for students, "what's more important is that we care about them and show them good examples of what it is to be a citizen."

Jefferson City science teacher Rhiannon McKee won the Eisinger Outstanding Educator Award. McKee is also co-advisor for Student Council and the sponsor for the Gay-Straight Alliance student club. She also won $1,000 with her award.

In addition to Allen and McKee, the other four finalists for the awards were:

Jordan Hart, speech and debate teacher at Jefferson City High School.

Carrie Martin, librarian at East Elementary.

Kim Sellers, English teacher at Jefferson City Academic Center.

Jason Starke, third-grade teacher at North Elementary.

The Teacher of the Year Selection Committee is comprised of Jefferson City area community members. They chose finalists based on written applications submitted in February. The committee then interviewed the six finalists in person at their classrooms in the process of determining the winner.

The awards are named after former JCPS teacher and Missouri Teacher of the Year award winner Linda Eisinger. She and her husband, Don, announced last year they would fund the awards for the next 15 years.

Anyone can nominate a teacher for the awards, which drew 142 nominees this year.

The award winners and finalists were not the only ones recognized Thursday night. Teachers who have served five, 10, 15, 20 or 25 years were recognized, as well.

The teachers serving 15 or more years were recognized individually, receiving special lapel pins and certificates.

In all, 45 district staff members have served for 15 years or more, with nine of them serving for 25 years.

The evening's festivities also included a dinner prepared and served by the Jefferson City Public Schools Food Service Department.

Director of Food Services Terri Ferguson, a 33-year JCPS veteran, was one of the 29 district employees recognized for their retirements this year and for the years they've served Jefferson City Public Schools.

Jefferson City Academic Center counselor Dana Bolin and JCAC teacher Jennifer Milne have each served for 40 years.

Lewis and Clark teacher Eileen Bisges and JCHS English teacher Debbie Schmidt were not far behind with 38 years to both of them.

After them, the experience of the other retiring staff recognized Thursday night ranged from 20-33 years.

The JC Stringers, under the direction of Aimee Veile and Susan Wallace, and the Advanced Stringers, under the direction of Ashley Nelson, provided musical entertainment.

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