Teachers earn recognition for being class acts

Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2005

Despite all the current grumblings about education in our country, there also are many positive things happening right here in our community.

We on the Kenai Peninsula are fortunate to have two of them among us: Allan Miller and Mary Kay "M.K." Knudsen.

For those of you who haven't read Miller's name in the Clarion before, he has been quite active with his fifth- and sixth-grade students at Sterling Elementary School. In fact, you could say his classes are out of this world.

Miller was a teacher-in-space candidate and has brought his classes to the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska for missions and workshops. He organizes and runs activities between American and Russian (in Russia and on the Kenai Peninsula) schools that involve the Challenger Center. His class works on science projects throughout their curriculum, including art and math.

He volunteers his summer and weekend time to help with Challenger programs.

Having been a teacher-in-space candidate, he has experienced NASA training that's created a vital hands-on resource in the area.

In other words, he's committed to making an impact on his students.

That's why the Challenger Center for Space Science Education has named him one of five national Teacher of the Year award recipients for 2005.

Miller's involvement with the Challenger Center made him an obvious choice for the nomination, according to Tamra Wear, the center's lead flight director.

"Mr. Miller truly cares about the students he teaches," Wear said.

The same goes for Knudsen.

Knudsen was honored alongside six other Kenai Peninsula teachers who recently were recognized as state BP Teachers of Excellence.

But it was Knudsen, a first-grade teacher at the Kaleidoscope School of the Arts and Sciences Charter School in Kenai, who was chosen above all as BP's Teacher of the Year on the peninsula.

Co-workers nominated her for keeping children in mind and working with whatever resources are available. She said she believes in creating a positive experience for both students and their families. In collaboration with the music teacher, librarian and team teacher, she encourages inquiry-based discovery learning that is fun.

BP also recognized Soldotna Elementary School kindergarten teacher Jane Allen, Mountain View Elementary fifth-grade teacher Rose Ann Keating, Homer High School AP social studies and government teacher Patricia Jay, Kenai Central High School counselor Jon G. Lillevik, Homer Middle School language arts teacher Toni Parlow and Nikiski Middle-Senior High School special education and intensive needs teacher Sharon Thompson.

"Education has a powerful impact on human progress, and teachers are a critical link in transforming children into responsible, productive members of society," said Steve Marshall, president of BP Exploration. "It's important to recognize, value and celebrate the educator's role in making our communities better places to live, work and raise our families."

We couldn't agree more. Thank you to all the teachers who are leaving a positive impression on our students. It may not always be easy, but it is always worth the effort.

Even temporary

solutions welcomed

While it may not have been the most ideal situation, we're glad to see the legislators finally put their heads together and hammered out a workable end to this year's stumbling blocks — namely the workers' comp bill.

No, it's not the perfect solution, but it's certainly one the state can move forward and work with for starters. Doing nothing would have been far worse. At least now it can be tweaked and molded into something both sides can be happier with — we hope.

And while the capital budget, retirement program and workers' comp bills came at a hefty price — $30,000 a day for the 15-day-long session — there is a small upside in that the governor was wise enough to call the special session before the regular session ended, saving much more than it would have cost to bring everyone back to the capital.

Still, it would be great if these special sessions could be saved for when they're needed, which would make them truly special instead of an expected part of the yearly Legislature routine.

Maybe, just maybe, next year will be different.

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