BP honors 7 from KPBSD with Teachers of Excellence Awards

Seven Kenai Peninsula Borough teachers were honored May 1, as 2013 BP Teachers of Excellence. The eighteenth annual BP Teachers of Excellence awards event was held at the Soldotna Senior Center and Janet Weiss, President of BP in Alaska, presented the awards along with Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) Supt. Dr. Steve Atwater. Rob Sparks of Skyview High School was named the 2013 Kenai Peninsula BP Teacher of the Year.


Concluding the awards presentation, Weiss, spoke to educators gathered along with family and school board members, community leaders and remarked about the 2013 Kenai BP Teacher of the Year Award, “This teacher does not let students fail. This teacher finds students during lunch and brings them to the classroom to complete any missing assignments. They make every assignment and every project important. And they do what is undisputedly the most important job of an educator: they teach students how to think, not what to think.” The BP Teachers of Excellence program recognizes Alaska teachers for their dedication to teaching and for inspiring students. Nearly 1,400 nominations were received this year from across the state. The seven Kenai Peninsula teachers are among 30 Alaska educators honored as 2013 Teachers of Excellence. Each teacher receives $500, and their school receives a matching $500 grant.

“The annual BP Teacher of Excellence Award is our chance to stop and recognize a few of our district’s excellent teachers,” said Dr. Steve Atwater, superintendent. “I know that each of the seven teachers is an excellent representation of our staff as a whole.”

The 2013 BP Teachers of Excellence are Donna Austin, Chapman Elementary School (Anchor Point); Sue Biggs, Redoubt Elementary School (Soldotna); Myla Liljemark, Seward Middle School; Lyn Maslow, West Homer Elementary School; Renee Merkes, Soldotna High School; Rob Sparks, Skyview High School (Soldotna); and Greg Zorbas, Kenai Central High School. “My goal as an educator is to inspire students to do their best and instill in them a love for learning,” said Donna Austin. “I want them to have the desire to learn all they can about the world and how they can contribute at their level.” Sue Biggs, a music teacher said, “As an educator, I am inspired when my students’ creative bents and inquiring minds unfold before my eyes. It is such a gift when they share their wit, insights and deep thoughts through our learning processes,” she said.

Myla Liljemark, from Seward Middle School said, “A goal that I have for my class, is to nurture globally competent students. These are students that understand the historic and contemporary relationships between regions, countries, and peoples of the world.”

West Homer Elementary School teacher, Lyn Maslow reflected, “I am inspired by my students’ curiosity and enthusiasm for how things work and how events are connected. One of my goals is to create a safe and comfortable environment for all kids so they can learn.” Math teacher Renee Merkes said, “With so many dedicated and talented teachers in our district, I was deeply moved when I received the BP Teacher of Excellence Award. Every day I am inspired by the amazing students, parents, teachers and staff at SoHi and around the district.” Accepting the BP Teacher of the Year award Rob Sparks told those assembled, “I appreciate administrators, IT staff, district office staff, and fellow teachers who support our efforts to bring new ideas to the classroom Mr. Zorbas and I often need flexibility and new technologies to accomplish the goals we set, and whenever we have asked for anything extra people have encouraged us and provided us with the needed assistance. Most importantly I appreciate the students,” he said.

Greg Zorbas added, “Mr. Sparks and I are using many forms of twenty-first century technology in our classrooms; I hope in the future we can continue to grow these opportunities. We connect our students live with students and leaders in places like Africa, Afghanistan, Israel, and Yemen or through interactive lessons from places like the Manhattan School of Music. I hope that the collaboration continues to push me professionally to continue to embrace new innovative ways of doing what we do every day.”

“Recognizing outstanding Alaska educators is among the most rewarding and important aspects of BP’s investment in Alaska,” said Phil Cochrane, Vice President of External Affairs for BP Exploration Alaska. “It is an honor to say thank you to these teachers who are investing themselves to make sure Alaska’s young people are receiving the best possible education as they head down the path to future success.”