Distinguished Teachers 2010

Christian Schools

10_Beth_SmithBeth Smith is an original and dedicated history teacher at Maranatha Academy’s high school in Shawnee, and is highly respected for her ability to connect with her students. In her seventh year at Maranatha, Mrs. Smith is known for her creativity. She recently designed a unique Berlin Wall lesson where students were free and non-free citizens and experienced the consequences or blessings of their predicament.

“Mrs. Smith is the consummate professional, meeting goals for her department, for the principal, and for the masters program she is pursuing,” Mark Hoduski, Maranatha History Department Chair and director of Teacher Development, said. “She is also an innovative teacher.”

Mrs. Smith also taught at Berean Academy 1998 to 2003. She earned her BA in history from Mid-America Nazarene University in 1986, and will complete her MA in teaching from Avila University in May 2010.


Diocese of Dodge City

10_Linda_ConkleLinda Conkle is devoted to her students’ academic and spiritual life as she teaches fi fth grade part time and has the responsibility of Lead Teacher for Sacred Heart School in Pratt. She began her teaching career at Sacred Heart in 1992, and since 2006, in her administrative position, also teaches religion to several grades. Her commitment to instilling Catholic faith values includes leading all her students in daily prayer, and helping them to understand the Bible for their school Mass.

“Linda exemplifies the life of a Catholic Christian to her students and staff at all times,” said Bill Biermann, Superintendent, Diocese of Dodge City. “She also faces her many tasks with an enthusiastic smile.”

Prior to Pratt, Mrs. Conkle taught at Bucklin and Hays, Kansas and also Woodward, Oklahoma. She earned her BS in education from Fort Hays State University in 1974.


Independent Schools

10_Joy_BurtonJoy Burton is an outstanding multi-grade teacher and principal at Enterprise Adventist Elementary School. Since 2006, Ms. Burton has utilized her expertise to help her students excel. To expose her students to unique enrichment activities, she brought in expert scientists and authors, and visited a working farm to pick apples to make apple cider.

“Ms. Burton cares deeply for the academic progress of her students, and she works diligently to inspire her students to be successful in life,” Gary Kruger, Superintendent, Seventh-day Adventist Kansas-Nebraska Conference, said. “Additionally, she teaches her students that each person has value and should be treated with respect and dignity.”

Ms. Burton has been a principal and a teacher at Adventist schools in Louisiana, Nebraska, and Topeka, beginning in 1986. She received her BS in elementary education from Union College, in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1981.


Lutheran Schools

10_Kathy_StarrKathy Starr works faithfully as a Kindergarten teacher at Faith Lutheran School in Derby, to educate each child as a unique gift from God. Mrs. Starr fi rst started in 1989 as the pre-school director and teacher for Faith Lutheran. In 2001, she moved to the elementary school and served as acting principal for six years. As an educator, Mrs. Starr is particularly talented at identifying the specific needs of her students and finding solutions to meet those needs.

“Kathy has the special gift of making each child feel loved and special,” said Paul Mieger, Faith Lutheran Principal. “Her organization skills are beyond compare as seen both in her classroom and in her work in other areas of the school.”

Mrs. Starr began her career      in 1975 as a fi rst grade teacher in Pratt and Haysville. She earned her BS in elementary education from Kansas State University in 1975.


Diocese of Salina

10_Benita_CoxSandy Nilges has been at Manhattan Catholic School (MCS) since 1994, and is a devoted fourth grade teacher. In addition to her commitment to helping her students excel in math, reading and religious education, she has chaired numerous school committees. Her unique perspective has been shaped in part by teaching fi rst grade in Germany (1991-92) for the Department of Defense.

“When you observe Sandy with her students, you easily see the care and devotion she has for them. Through her teaching and volunteering, she provides our school and parish with the expertise in academics and the teachings of Jesus,” said Linda Roggenkamp, MCS Principal.

Mrs. Nilges has taught in Germany, Washington, and Minnesota. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from St. Benedict College in St. Joseph, Minnesota in 1979.


Diocese of Wichita

10_Sandy_NilgesBenita Cox genuinely loves teaching and encouraging her first grade students at St. Mary Catholic School in Derby. For the past 20 years, she has created tremendous excitement in her students for a variety of subjects – particularly reading. A highlight of each day is when she gathers her students and reads aloud in her rocking chair – stopping to ask questions, all the while using stories that clearly teach right from wrong.

“Mrs. Cox is without a doubt one of the finest reading teachers I have ever worked with in my 30 years of education,” Richard Montgomery, St. Mary Principal, said. “She is always looking for something different, improving on what she does in the classroom.”

Mrs. Cox has also taught in Topeka and Wichita prior to coming to St. Mary’s School. She received her BS in education from Fort Hays State University in 1970.