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KU seniors honor high school teachers with Wolfe Family Teaching Awards

Tue, 05/13/2014

LAWRENCE — Even though it’s been several years since University of Kansas seniors have set foot in high school teachers’ classrooms, the influence of many of those educators is not forgotten.

As their former students celebrate the milestone of graduation, two outstanding Kansas teachers will be recognized with the 2014 Wolfe Family Teaching Award during Commencement weekend. Nominations are submitted by seniors. Students from any major at KU can nominate their former teachers, and the winners can be teachers from anywhere in the world.

“This is a special award because it offers students an opportunity to recognize the educators who touched their lives,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education. “Much of school reform today focuses on improving students’ standardized test scores, but when students identify lifelong impact, that may be the greatest measure of a teacher’s true worth. There are few better rewards for a teacher than seeing students succeed after they leave their classroom.”

The 2014 award recipients:

  • Jodi Johnson, Blue Valley North High School
  • Shannon Ralph, Dodge City High School

Jodi Johnson was nominated for the award by her former student, Laila Tawfik, who is graduating with a bachelor's degree in both psychology and French. In her nomination, Tawfik wrote, “In addition to being an excellent teacher, Madame Johnson is an incredible person. Throughout my four years of taking French from her, she always demonstrated respect for each and every one of her students, making us feel comfortable to learn from our mistakes.”

Codi Ehrlich, who will receive a bachelor's degree in Spanish and enter KU's School of Medicine in the fall, nominated Shannon Ralph.

“When I think of Mrs. Ralph, two things come to mind: her love of teaching and her love of the Kansas Jayhawks… (Her) classes were by far the most challenging and engaging classes I remember from high school… Her AP Biology class was the class that best prepared me for taking science classes at the University of Kansas because she presented the material in a manner similar to how a college professor would teach; without this class, college would have been a huge slap in the face… Mrs. Ralph is more than a teacher with a passion for science, she is also an empathetic, kind woman who cares deeply for her students.”

Recipients each receive a cash award of $3,000, and their respective high schools each receive $1,000.

The award winners were selected from a large pool of outstanding nominees by a committee of faculty, administrators and students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Education. Secondary school teachers from anywhere in the United States and abroad are eligible to be nominated by KU seniors.

The recipients will be honored during the School of Education convocation ceremony and a dinner held in their honor.

The Wolfe Family Teaching Award was created in 2006 with a $250,000 gift from R. Dean Wolfe, business administration, ’66, and juris doctorate, ’69; and Cheryl L. Wolfe, Spanish education ’69, Clayton, Mo., through the Wolfe Family Foundation.

The award fund is managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.



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