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Local teachers tapped for state honors
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Eisenhower Principal Tricia Reiser poses with Laurie Harwood and Tom Vernon after Harwood was named the USD 428 Kansas Teacher of the Year designee.

USD 428 is celebrating the recognition of two new Kansas Teacher of the Year nominees.
Laurie Harwood, Eisenhower fourth-grade teacher, and Kim Heath, Great Bend High School English teacher, have been selected by a committee of their peers to represent the district at the state level.
“Laurie is a dedicated and highly professional teacher,” said Tricia Reiser, Eisenhower School principal. “Students enjoy being in her classroom. She remembers to keep focused on what is best for kids.”
Harwood, a Fort Hays State University graduate, has 25 years teaching experience, all at USD 428.
“I am a teacher because I love to watch the look on a student’s face when they finally get it,” Harwood said. “I cannot imagine myself doing anything else, but working with children.
“I feel my greatest contribution in education is the environment that I create in my classroom,” she said. “My students know that I love them, that I am here for them and there is nothing they can tell me that I have not already heard.
“I have a strong love of learning and I work to build that love of learning in my students,” she said. “I have shared my struggles and stresses with continuing my education with my students, so they know they are not alone when it comes to learning new things.
“My philosophy in teaching is that I believe all children can learn, but it is sometimes not at the same pace as their classmates,” Harwood continued. “I believe in providing the best education for children, even when it means I have to work a little harder with them.
“The greatest reward I find in teaching is when, several years down the road, a student comes up to me and tells me that they remember being in my classroom,” she said. “The idea that they can remember the fun ways I taught them to remember concepts is what is important.
“That is what teaching is all about,” she added. “That is why I do what I do every day with enthusiasm.”
Heath, a Kansas State University graduate, has 17 years teaching experience, eight in her present position.
“Kim is truly a great teacher and a great person,” said Tim Friess, GBHS principal. “Her caring and compassion for her students as well as her involvement in every aspect of her job sets her apart from others. Kim is a very deserving nominee for the Kansas Teacher of the Year award.”
“I have always wanted to be a teacher,” Heath said. “Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing school with my dolls and little brother.
“My mother was a great role model,” she continued. “I saw the headaches and the grading that she brought home with her from school, but I also saw her joy at her students’ success.
“The desire to teach developed further in high school and college when I sat in the classrooms of some very inspiring people,” Heath said. “They taught me to think and to believe in myself.
“They lit a fire in me for the written word and what authors had to share with us. But, most importantly, my teachers taught me how to get up and speak and present my ideas in an organized way.
“This confidence transferred to my writing and all the other areas of my life,” she said. “I believe that I have had the same life-changing impact on several of my students that my teachers have had on me.
“Many of my former students have achieved greatness, but the ones that I am the most proud of are the ones that have followed in my footsteps and have chosen teaching as their career,” she said.
“They are connecting and sharing their love of learning with their students and through them, I am reaching even more kids.
“My biggest sense of accomplishment comes from the ones that I fear wouldn’t have made it to graduation without me showing them that they could be successful,” Heath said. “There is a lot more to teaching English than grammar, writing and literature.
“Through patience and kindness, I have the opportunity to show my students a world that is waiting for them to conquer,” she said. “I beam with pride when they share their triumphs with me.”
Teachers were nominated by their principals and/or peers to honor the teaching profession and encourage excellence in education. They were selected by a committee comprised of Tricia Reiser, Susan Stambaugh, Linda Gotsche, Toni Rice, Janet Thurow, Kim Guesnier, Tandi Mai, Cody Lee and Susan Young.  
The winners will receive $500 from the district for use in their classrooms and will be eligible to compete for Kansas Teacher of the Year honors.
Harwood and Heath will be recognized for their accomplishments at the April 9 school board meeting.