Michael Haase, Tavish Whiting and Annie Norris named District 5 VFW Teachers of the Year

Annie Norris, Michael Haase and Tavish Whiting, all Lee’s Summit R-7 teachers, were recently named District 5 Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Teachers of the Year. The recognition program is conducted through the VFW Smart/Maher National Citizenship Education Teacher Award.

Mrs. Norris, the VFW Elementary Teacher of the Year, is a second-grade teacher at Westview Elementary. Michael Haase, the Middle School Teacher of the Year, is a social studies teacher at Summit Lakes Middle School. Tavish Whiting, the High School Teacher of the Year, teaches American government at Lee’s Summit North High School. All three were selected by the VFW Post 5789 of Lee’s Summit as local winners, advancing to the regional competition this spring.

As District 5 winners, the three teachers will compete for the state award. The VFW’s District 5 includes all school districts in Jackson County. The Lee’s Summit R-7 teachers received their local and district awards at an April 12 meeting at the Lee’s Summit VFW Post 5678.

Mrs. Norris has worked at Westview Elementary since 2009. Each year, she works with her students on a project to recognize local law enforcement officers and military personnel (both active and veterans) by writing meaningful thank-you letters. Her class also completes a yearly community service project to benefit Heifer International and she serves as her school’s facilitator for Partners In Education. “Annie’s commitment to citizenship and patriotism goes beyond just lessons in class,” stated the nomination form. “She is a dedicated teacher who motivates her students to become involved young citizens.”

“My goal is that every child leaves my room understanding the importance of kindness,” she said. “As a class we discuss and recognize those who serve our communities and our country every day.”

Mr. Haase has served as a social studies teacher at Summit Lakes Middle School since 2004. He also
has served on the School Improvement Team and Site-Based Leadership Team and was a co-sponsor of the SLMS Student Council. Before joining the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Mr. Haase served in the United States Army for three years and taught social studies in the Center School District.

“He has a strong sense of purpose and is very proud to be a veteran of the U.S. Army,” stated the nomination form for Mr. Haase. “Michael takes an active role in our school’s yearly Veterans Day activity that honors fallen soldiers in the War on Terror. He is very passionate about U.S. government and teaching students the importance of being responsible citizens. Michael is truly dedicated to the positive and responsible education of the students in his classes.”

Mr. Whiting has worked for the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District for 22 years. At LSNHS, he teaches American government, comparative government, contemporary issues and economics. He serves as the coordinator for R-7 Votes, a mock election conducted in all R-7 schools during presidential elections. In addition, Mr. Whiting was  member of the R-7 curriculum writing team for American government, contemporary issues, economics and comparative government; served on the writing team for the state-mandated constitution exams; and has been actively involved in The Missouri Bar Education Program.

Mr. Whiting was praised for his leadership, teaching style, dedication and passion for his subject. “He is willing to continuously work for his students and to set an example for the staff he works alongside,” stated the nomination form. “He is an exceptional role model.”


Group photo is (from left) Tavish Whiting, Annie Norris and Michael Haase.

Summit Lakes Middle School students capture championship in CyberPatriot nationals

A team of students from Summit Lakes Middle School recently returned from Baltimore, Md., after earning the championship trophy in CyberPatriot IX—the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, held April 3-5. The winning team is called Team Error 37 and includes Tommy Cuezze,  Jonah Ludiker and Mason Sipe, eighth-graders, and Connor Bichsel, Keenan Curp, and Ethan McFarland, seventh-graders.

Since 2009, CyberPatriot’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition has challenged teams of two to six students to harden simulated computer systems and resolve real-life cybersecurity situations faced by industry professionals. The competition provides students hands-on experience securing computer networks while exciting, educating and motivating them toward careers in cybersecurity and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Team coach is Teri Curp, and Kevin Shulmeister serves as technical coach. The Summit Lakes Middle School team was one of just three advancing from a pool of roughly 600 middle school division teams. The CyberPatriot competition consists of two high school divisions, with public, private, and home schools competing in the open division and Junior ROTC units, Naval Sea Cadet Corps, and Civil Air Patrol squadrons competing in the all-service division, as well as a middle school division.

In all, more than 4,400 teams registered to participate in CyberPatriot IX, marking 30 percent growth to the competition field from last season. Registered teams represented all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools in both Europe and the Pacific, and other teams abroad.

Following three preliminary rounds in November, December and January, only the top 50 percent of middle school teams advanced to the semifinals. From that round, only three teams were chosen for the national finals. The Summit Lakes Middle School team demonstrated the teamwork, critical thinking skills and technical knowledge necessary to distinguish itself from other middle school teams and win its coveted national finalist spot.

During April, the SLMS team traveled all-expenses-paid to the CyberPatriot IX National Finals Competition at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Md. During the competition’s only in-person round, teams competed to defend virtual networks and mobile devices from a professional aggressor team. The middle school finalists faced off in three additional competition components: the Network Security Challenge and the Cisco Networking Challenge.  The Cisco Networking Challenge  exposed competitors to new elements and skillsets of the many career opportunities available to them.

The SLMS students are being featured in an April issue of Time magazine for Kids that focuses on cybersecurity. One of the students on the team participated in an interview on this topic for the magazine.

CyberPatriot greatly benefits from the support and technical expertise of the Northrop Grumman Foundation and the competition’s founding partner – CIAS at the University of Texas-San Antonio. AT&T Federal and the AT&T Foundation, Cisco, Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Secretary of Defense; Cyber Gold sponsors Facebook, Riverside Research, Splunk and Symantec; and Cyber Silver sponsors the Air Force Reserve, American Military University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Leidos and University of Maryland University College.

For more information about CyberPatriot, go to www.uscyberpatriot.org.

Pictured with CyberPatriot officials are (from left) Kevin Schulmeister (technical coach), Ethan McFarland, Tommy Cuezze, Connor Bichsel, Keenan Curp, Jonah Ludiker, Mason Sipe, and Teri Curp (team coach).

New administrators named by R-7 Board of Education

Three new administrators were named at the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Board of Education meeting on April 13. They include Dr. Jennifer Corum, who will serve as the district’s assistant superintendent of elementary instruction; Dr. Chad Hertzog, new principal for Lee’s Summit West High School; and David Mitchell, who will serve as principal at Summit Lakes Middle School. All three will begin their new jobs on July 1.

Dr. Corum will replace Dr. Katie Collier, who was recently named Lee’s Summit R-7 associate superintendent of instruction and leadership. Dr. Hertzog is replacing Dr. David Sharp, who is leaving Lee’s Summit West to become the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary instruction. Mr. Mitchell will replace Dr. David Carlson, who is leaving Summit Lakes Middle School to become the district’s executive director of classified personnel.

Dr. Corum is currently executive director of elementary education for the Liberty School District. She previously served as director of curriculum for the Park Hill School District, as an elementary principal and as a sixth- and fifth-grade teacher. In addition, she has served as an adjunct master’s education professor for Northwest Missouri State University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Park University.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Cornell College, her master’s degree in educational administration from Emporia State University and her doctorate of education from Saint Louis University. Dr. Corum has also earned National Board Certification for Teaching Standards and received the Exemplary Leadership Award from the Northland Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Corum will join Lee’s Summit R-7 as Dr. Kephart after her June wedding.  

Dr. Hertzog currently serves as assistant principal/activities director at Lee’s Summit High School. He previously worked as an assistant principal and mathematics teacher at LSHS. In 2012, he was named the Assistant Principal of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Missouri Principal’s Association.

A Lee’s Summit resident, Dr. Hertzog earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from the University of Missouri-Columbia, his master’s degree in secondary administration from the University of Central Missouri and his doctorate in educational leadership from Saint Louis University.

Mr. Mitchell is currently principal at Raymore-Peculiar East Middle School. He previously worked as middle school principal and assistant principal in the Independence School District as well as principal of the Independence middle level summer program.  Prior to beginning his administrative career, Mr. Mitchell served as a teacher at the elementary and middle school levels in Independence and Columbia. In 2005, he was named the Greater Kansas City Missouri Principal’s Association Principal of the Year.

Mr. Mitchell earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his master’s degree in education administration and his specialist degree in school administration, both from the University of Central Missouri. He is currently working on his doctorate degree in  educational leadership from William Woods University.

PLMS teachers meet with Lee’s Summit Teacher Academy members

Several teachers from Pleasant Lea Middle School recently met with students involved in the Lee’s Summit Teachers Academy. The academy includes students from all Lee’s Summit R-7 high schools and middle schools.

During March, Teachers Suzanne Wiley, Katrina McLeod, Joel Staponski, Todd Fenske, Robbie Vaughn and Aaron Layendecker met with students in the newly formed club to talk about why they chose education as a career path, their experiences as teachers and why they enjoy working with middle school students.

The students — Bianca Stewart, Jayln Close and Katie McKitterick — are among the first students at Pleasant Lea Middle School to join the Lee’s Summit Teachers Academy. During the presentation, the academy students had the opportunity to ask questions of the teachers.

The new club was initiated by Dr. Jeff Miller, R-7 associate superintendent for human resources, to help encourage students to consider teaching careers. Marcy Hess and Kim Hamadi are the sponsors of Lee’s Summit Teachers Academy at PLMS. The sponsors said they hope to inspire students to return to Lee’s Summit School District as future teachers.  

On May 1, all middle-school Lee’s Summit Teachers Academy members will travel to Great Beginnings Early Education Center and Summit Technology Academy to learn more about these programs.

LSNHS National Honor Society volunteers to help beautify their school

Approximately 35 members of the Lee’s Summit North High School National Honor Society donated several hours on April 9 to help beautify their school. The students constructed a vegetable garden on the south side of the building, pulled weeds and spread mulch throughout the campus.  

National Honor Society will maintain the vegetable garden throughout the summer and will donate anything harvested to Feed A Need and Lee’s Summit Social Services. With the help of a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society grant, the LSNHS Science Department will help complete this project by fencing in the garden area. Science classes will maintain the garden during the school year and will provide the plants. Students from the school’s science of nature classes assisted by starting the plants from seeds and donating them to the project.

To watch a video about the day, select here.

Brad Rackers named R-7 Teacher of the Year

Excellence In Teaching winners honored at April 12 event

Brad Rackers, theatre director at Lee’s Summit West High School, was named Lee’s Summit R-7 School District 2017 Teacher of the Year during a surprise announcement at an April 12 community reception. The reception also recognized 12 R-7 teachers who had been named Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce Excellence In Teaching Award winners earlier this spring.

Excellence In Teaching winners include Anne Braun, Woodland Elementary School; Tracy Colón, Summit Technology Academy; Susan Dunham, Hazel Grove Elementary School; Matt Good, Lee’s Summit West High School; Teresa Graves, Summit Pointe Elementary School; Mindy Haesemeyer, Lee’s Summit North High School; Kim Hartman, Woodland Elementary School; Pamela Hayes, Longview Farm Elementary School; Jonathan Krinke, Lee’s Summit North High School; Brad Rackers, Lee’s Summit West High School; Kimberly Rues, Summit Pointe Elementary School; and Krista Tucker, Highland Park Elementary School.

In addition to the Excellence In Teaching winners, other finalists for Teacher of the Year included former Excellence In Teaching winners who were nominated for the award again this year and selected as Teachers of Distinction. These former winners had the opportunity to interview along with this year’s award recipients for Teacher of the Year and were also recognized April 12. They are Erica Arbuckle, Hawthorn Hill Elementary School; Jen Posson, Summit Pointe Elementary School; and Stu Reece, Bernard Campbell Middle School.

All Excellence In Teaching and Teacher of Distinction recipients are also honored with the Hertzog Leadership Award, funded by Jon and Juli Ellis, to honor Dr. Robert (Bud) Hertzog, local businessman and community leader. In addition, the Teacher of the Year receives a $100 Cathy Paulson Heart to Heart Award. This award is funded by the Loren Paulson family in honor of Cathy Paulson, who passed away in 2010.

The Excellence In Teaching program and reception are sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the R-7 School District. All students, parents, R-7 employees and community members are invited to nominate outstanding teachers. The recognized teachers were selected by a committee composed of R-7 staff and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and the community.

As Teacher of the Year, Mr. Rackers will go on to participate in the Missouri Teacher of the Year program. He has been an educator for 13 years, including seven years with the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. Mr. Rackers has attended and presented at local, regional and national theatre arts conferences and is currently president of the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri.

“The best learning happens when students don’t realize they’re learning,” Mr. Rackers said. “Teaching is all about going on an educational journey with students and letting them make mistakes, supporting them when they fail, reflecting on the successes and challenges throughout the process and celebrating the final product. All students have their own unique set of experiences they bring with them to the classroom each day. I negotiate those circumstances to help them succeed at the highest level.”

In nomination forms, Mr. Rackers was praised for his ability to engage all students. “Mr. Rackers uses theatre to draw in the students on the fringe, students who could otherwise easily slip through cracks of high school life and instead connect them with meaningful work as part of a tight-knit family,” said a nominator.

At Lee’s Summit West High School, Mr. Rackers serves on the Diversity Team and has previously served on the district’s curriculum writing team. He makes it a priority to provide opportunities for his theatre students to support community organizations through community service activities such as an annual canned food drive supporting Lee’s Summit Social Services and a book drive for Reach Out and Read.

He received the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri Board of Governor’s New Teacher of the Year award, Grandview High School Teacher of the Year award and was selected as the technical director for the Missouri State Thespians All-State performance of “Jekyll and Hyde.” Before coming to Lee’s Summit R-7, Mr. Rackers taught theatre in the Grandview School District. In the theatre community, Mr. Rackers has been heavily involved in the Kansas City Cappies organization, directing a number of shows and musicals as well as serving as the organization’s Steering Committee chairperson. He has also worked with the Summit Theater Group and served as a technical director for Missouri State Thespians All-State Show and International Thespian Conference Selection.

Mr. Rackers earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and theatre education from Missouri State University and a master’s in education from Baker University, graduating summa cum laude.  

Excellence In Teaching Award winners and Teachers of Distinction are (front row, from left) Erica Arbuckle, Kimberly Rues, Jen Posson, (second row, from left) Kim Hartman, Susan Dunham, Tracy Colón, Mindy Haesemeyer, (third row, from left) Teresa Graves, Anne Braun, Krista Tucker, Pamela Hayes, (back row, from left) Jonathan Krinke, Stu Reece, Brad Rackers and Matt Good.

Kris Jenkins receives LS R-7 Learning for Life Award for April

Kris Jenkins was named the Lee’s Summit R-7 Learning for Life Award winner for April. She is a mathematics teacher at Bernard Campbell Middle School.

The award is presented to one employee each month who is nominated by co-workers and selected by a staff committee.

“Kris has touched many students’ lives in our school district and many, many of these students come back to see her and thank her for her help with their ‘math world’ as well as to thank her for caring about them,” said a colleague. “That is a true testament to a marvelous teacher and a person who has made learning a lifetime event.”  

LS R-7 elementary students capture awards at Reel Spirit Student Film Festival

Students from nine Lee’s Summit R-7 elementary schools captured awards on April 8 at  Reel Spirit: Young Filmmaker Showcase – youth division of Kansas City FilmFest – www.kcfilmfest.org, held at the Cinemark Palace on the Plaza. The nine schools won a record number of film awards for the school district this year.  

Lindsey Shively, morning anchor at Channel 41 KSHB, and John Mertz, radio and TV personality, were the MCs at the showcases that morning.  Young filmmakers were given the “red carpet” treatment, had opportunities to interact with a special effects make-up artist, a caricature artist and dog trainer who has worked with animals on movie sets during the morning.

Students earning awards attend the following schools: Mason Elementary, Richardson Elementary, Hawthorn Hill Elementary, Prairie View Elementary, Underwood Elementary, Longview Farm Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Cedar Creek Elementary and Pleasant Lea Elementary.

Through the metro-area film competition, students in second grade through high school enter films into one of the following categories: narrative, commercial, public service announcement, news broadcast, animation, science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) or documentary. Students with films that place first, second or third are invited to the Reel Spirit Showcase where they watch their films on the big screen and receive Oscar-style trophies. At this special event, students dress up to walk the red carpet and be interviewed about their films.

“My Hawthorn Hill Elementary students loved participating in the Reel Spirit Film Festival!” said Lisa Cohen, teacher. “From coming up with the film idea, storyboarding, writing the script, filming and editing to finding out we had finished in the top three in our age division and category was an exhilarating experience. The students were all dressed up and looked amazing as they entered the Cinemark  Palace on the Plaza movie theater and walked the red carpet.”


Dr. Jeff Meisenheimer named Principal of Year by Greater Kansas City Missouri Principals Association

Dr. Jeff Meisenheimer, Lee’s Summit North High School principal, was named Principal of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Missouri Principals Association. He learned of the award during a surprise announcement at LSNHS on April 7. Dr. Meisenheimer will be officially honored at the organization’s awards banquet, scheduled for April 27.

As the Greater Kansas City honoree, Dr. Meisenheimer will go on to compete in the Missouri Principal of the Year program.

Tim Collins, LSNHS assistant principal, nominated Dr. Meisenheimer for the award. “We have three new assistant principals this year and he coaches and supports them unconditionally,” Mr. Collins said. “The staff responds well to his leadership style and he is constantly pushing them to improve as educators.”

Dr. Meisenheimer has served as principal at Lee’s Summit North High School for four years. He previously served as assistant principal at Lee’s Summit High School and Ruskin High School. In 2010, he was named the Assistant Principal of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Missouri Principals Association and by the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals.

A Lee’s Summit resident, Dr. Meisenheimer earned his bachelor’s degree in business education from the University of Missouri-Columbia; his master’s degree in educational administration and his specialist degree in educational administration, both from the University of Missouri-Kansas City; and his executive doctor of education from Saint Louis University.

LSHS Hall of Fame honors four new inductees

Four Lee’s Summit High School alumni were inducted to the LSHS Hall of Fame April 8 at Lee’s Summit High School.  They included Nelson “Nikk” Thompson (deceased), Class of 1969, represented by his wife, Cher (far left); Lois Rygaard Brayfield, Class of 1978; Bob Hartnett, Class of 1974; and Laurence Pressly (far right), Class of 1949.  Each new member received a Hall of Fame medallion and an engraved pewter platter. Their accomplishments will be placed on a bronze plaque placed on the “Wall of Fame” at LSHS. For more information about the honorees or about how to nominate an individual for this honor, visit the R-7 School District webpage.

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