Great teachers in the borough will soon be recognized through the Teachers of Excellence program.
Sponsored by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., the 4-year old program is coming to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District this semester. BP's Tom Gallagher introduced the program at Wednesday's Kenai Chamber of Commerce lunch at Paradisos.
"The Teachers of Excellence program was started in 1996 to honor the awesome power of teaching," Gallagher said. "It was a logical extension to our commitment to education."
In addition to a $1.5 million donation of computer equipment around the state, Gallagher said, BP has provided scholarships to several hundred Alaska students, including three on the peninsula.
The teachers program began in Anchorage and Fairbanks four years ago and has since expanded to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District.
Gallagher said a lack of recognition for teachers prompted the program.
"As parents, we know the work teachers do," he said. "They have to be teachers, counselors and sometimes nurses to our children."
Usually 10 teachers are chosen during a school year, but since the program is coming to the peninsula in the middle of the year, only five teachers will win awards.
"Anyone can make nominations," Gallagher said. "We seek to involve the entire community. The nominating forms are so simple, even elementary students can make nominations."
Teachers are not the only educators that qualify for nomination. Gallagher said coaches, counselors, librarians and special education instructors are eligible.
"Pretty much everybody except for principals, clerical staff and superintendents," he said with a smile toward KPBSD Superintendent Donna Peterson, who was sitting in the front row.
For her part, Peterson said she is very excited that the program is coming to the borough.
"It has been so successful in other districts, and we are thrilled that BP is bringing it to the Kenai," Peterson said. "We have excellent teachers in our district, and this is an opportunity to recognize that excellence. And it goes beyond the pat on the back we can give them."
To qualify, Gallagher said, a teacher must instill a desire to learn and to effectively share knowledge with their students. They must also demonstrate how they engage the support of their community and bring special talents to the classroom.
"I got a letter from one winner who thanked us for validating her teaching style," Gallagher said.
The nominating committee will review all the names submitted and ask the teachers to fill out a questionnaire. Five teachers will be chosen and given $500 savings bonds and a plaque. They also will be invited on a tour of BP's North Slope oil production facilities.
One of the five will be selected to receive $1,500 and a bronze sculpture.
"In researching this, we found that a lot of teachers, even if they choose not to fill out the forms, feel great about being nominated," Peterson said.
Teachers on the peninsula will not have to compete with teachers from other districts.
BP has budgeted $150,000 for the program on the peninsula. Gallagher said the funds go toward recognizing the teachers, along with photos, trips and an awards dinner.
Gallagher said nomination forms will mailed to every Parent-Teacher Association and also can be obtained from the superintendent's office.
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