Teacher helps student have remarkable school year

The Story Project features personal stories about our students and their accomplishments in school. If you would like to submit a story about your child, visit www.lsr7.org/static/projects/story/.

Sixth-grade teacher helps students learn to believe in themselves, have confidence and to support one another

I am writing to not only recognize but also thank my daughter’s sixth-grade teacher; Mr. Ben Vinck.  Reagan has been a student at Richardson Elementary since kindergarten. We have been blessed to be a part of such an amazing school and fortunate that our children have always had amazing teachers. With that being said, going into Reagan’s sixth-grade year she learned that for the first time of her elementary life she would have a male teacher. Sixth grade came with great intimidation as is and now a male teacher….she was terrified to say the least. Reagan has always been our shy child so we knew we had to reassure her that she would have just as an amazing relationship with a male teacher as she would a female teacher.  

Well, needless to say, not only did Reagan grow out of her shyness but she as well as other classmates came to love Mr. Vinck. Mr. Vinck taught the students more than just the required curriculum. He taught them to believe in themselves, have confidence, never give up and how to support one another. Mr. Vinck listened to each and everyone of them. He gave them his time and undivided attention. He made sure every student knew that they mattered. One of the ways Mr. Vinck built these relationships was showing interest in their life not only in school but outside of school. Mr. Vinck told each and every student that he would  attend at least one of their extracurricular activities; for my daughter that activity was dance. One thing we have learned over the years of dance is that the competition days are long and usually out of town. We did not expect her teacher to honor his commitment considering the circumstances. Well, to our surprise and our daughter’s, Mr. Vinck kept his commitment and drove an hour out of his way to support his student and watch her dance. Not only did he come but also brought his older sister who was previously a dancer and is now a nurse — exactly what Reagan wants to do when she grows up. It was so awesome to see the excitement in Reagan’s eyes and an incredible opportunity for her to meet someone that she aspires to be like.  

I cannot say thank you enough, Mr. Vinck. I hope you know how much you are appreciated for going above and beyond.  What you have done for our daughter as well as other students is remarkable. You have taught them skills and given them memories that they will hold onto for a lifetime. Thank you!

Brett and Jennifer Maynard

Hazel Grove Elementary raises more than $1,200 to fight leukemia and lymphoma

Students and staff members at Hazel Grove Elementary recently raised more than $1,200 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through a Pennies for Patients fund drive.

Through Pennies for Patients, schools raising more than $600 qualify for a reward from Olive Garden. The top class at Hazel Grove — Beth Abrams’ fifth graders — participated in a Hospitaliano! Lunch from Olive Garden in Lee’s Summit.

Hazel Grove’s Student Council sponsored the fund drive. Fifth-graders are pictured at the special lunch event.

Retired school employees learn about LS Educational Foundation’s PEAK Grant program

Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation’s PEAK Grants were featured May 3 at a meeting of the Jacomo Chapter of the Retired School Personnel. Retired employees heard Sheryl Franke, director of the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation, share how the PEAK Grant program has grown through the years from roughly $5,000 annual grants to almost $60,000 in classroom grants awarded this year.

PEAK stands for Promoting Excellence And Knowledge, and Lee’s Summit R-7 teachers have the opportunity to apply for the grants annually. Grants ranging from $100 to approximately $3,500 are awarded each year during May by a surprise squad of Foundation Board members, known as the PEAK Patrol.

As of May 2016, a total of 771 PEAK Grants totaling $784,218 had been awarded to staff members. During this school year, 47 PEAK Grants have positively impacted student learning.

Two previous PEAK Grant recipients were on hand to discuss how the grants have affected the students in their classrooms with enhanced learning opportunities.  Mark Messner, a teacher at Westview Elementary, explained how his students in the “News Crew” put together their own news programs with the help of equipment purchased by PEAK Grants. Melissa Searls of Lee’s Summit West High School told about how her PEAK Grants have been used by her creative writing students, as well as students in her Sign Language Club. Following their presentation, Mr. Messner and Mrs. Searls were recognized as PEAK Grant recipients for the 2017-18 school year, as well.

Sheryl Franke, Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation director, tells about the history and impact of PEAK Grants.






Sheryl Franke, Melissa Searls and Mark Messner talk with Lee’s Summit retired teachers about the ways PEAK Grants are used to enhance the learning process in classrooms across the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District.





Melissa Searls and Mark Messner, LSR7 teachers, were surprised with 2017 PEAK Grants awarded by Sarah Hartman and Sheryl Franke of the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation.

LS R-7 high school teams capture honors at robotics championship

Lee’s Summit West wins World Championship division

Teams from Lee’s Summit High School, Lee’s Summit North High School and Lee’s Summit West High School were among 406 teams from around the world qualifying for the  26th annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championship, scheduled for April 26-29 in St. Louis.

Lee’s Summit West’s Team Titanium finished the qualifying rounds with the highest ranking score at the event, winning their division and going a perfect 6-0 in the elimination rounds. This qualified LSWHS to advance to the “Einstein Field” where they faced the other five division winners. On this field, Team Titanium emerged No. 1 from round-robin play and advanced to the championship match where they were upset by the No. 2 alliance.

The LSWHS accomplishment is the highest finish by a Missouri team in the history of the FIRST World Championship. Team Titanium also won the Darwin-Curie Industrial Design Award, sponsored by General Motors, for the robot design, craftsmanship and performance.

Lee’s Summit High School’s Team Driven was the alliance captain for the sixth seeded alliance in the Archimedes division. Team Driven made it all the way to the semifinals losing to an alliance of Team 225 from York, Pa.; Team 558 from New Haven, Conn.; Team 6334 from Midlothian, Va.; and Team 865 from Toronto. While at the World Championship, Team Driven also hosted Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.  

Lee’s Summit North High School Broncobots ranked 29th after the qualification matches. The team was invited to play with the seventh seed alliance going into the finals in the Archimedes division. The Broncobots won the first quarterfinal match, but lost to the second seed alliance made up of Team 225, Team 558, Team 6334 and Team 865.

Each Lee’s Summit R-7 high school team earned spots at the prestigious competition by winning qualifying contests during the annual robotics season. This is the fifth time in the past nine years that all three Lee’s Summit R-7 high schools have qualified for the World Championship.  

All three Lee’s Summit R-7 teams are preparing to compete in the third annual Missouri FIRST Championship, scheduled for May 13. LSWHS Team Titanium is the second-time defending state champion at this event.  LSHS Team Driven won the inaugural event meaning that only Lee’s Summit teams have captained the winning alliances of the Robotics Missouri State Championship. Lee’s Summit North is the highest ranking team coming into the Missouri Championships, Lee’s Summit West is ranked third, and Lee’s Summit High School is ranked sixth. These ranks are determined by cumulative outcomes through the regular robotics season.

This year’s game, called “Steamworks,”  features three major tasks. They include rapid firing pickle balls into an open funnel, catching giant gears and placing them on spring pegs and climbing a free hanging rope.  All FIRST teams had six weeks in January and February to analyze these objectives, design solutions, fabricate, wire, program and iterate on their designs.


LSWHS is pictured at the World Championship.






Several members of the LSHS team are pictured with Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.





The LSNHS Drive Team at the World Championship.

Congratulations to LS R-7 retiring staff members

A total of 101 Lee’s Summit R-7 staff members were recognized at the district’s annual Retirement Reception, held May 2 at the Stansberry Leadership Center. The honored guests included staff members retiring at the end of this school year as well as those retiring anytime after the May 2016 reception.

These 101 retiring staff members have worked for a combined total of 1,940 years within Lee’s Summit R-7 plus many also worked additional years in other school districts before joining R-7.

Congratulations to all retirees, including Cheryl Anderson, Pleasant Lea Elementary cafeteria manager; Dr. Don Andrews, Stansberry Leadership Center assistant superintendent of secondary instruction; Mary Babcock, Meadow Lane Elementary paraprofessional; Steve Bailey, Richardson Elementary building manager; Jeannie Barnard, Cedar Creek Elementary teacher; Richard Barry, R-7 Facilities Services building manager; Teresa Barry, Bernard Campbell Middle School cafeteria production staff; Terri Beard, Richardson Elementary teacher; Susan Bennett, Summit Ridge Academy secretary; Dr. Brent Blevins, Stansberry Leadership Center deputy superintendent of operations; Jim Board, Prairie View Elementary custodian; Louise Brehm, Highland Park Elementary teacher; Charles Brown, R-7 bus driver; Sandy Brown, Stansberry Leadership Center athletic/activity secretary; Julie Caldwell, Meadow Lane Elementary reading specialist; Melvin Carey, R-7 bus driver; Rick Cates, Lee’s Summit North High School crew leader; Willeta Chance, Stansberry Leadership Center accounting manager; Donna Chapin, Summit Ridge Academy principal’s secretary; Susan Cline, Pleasant Lea Middle School building clerk; Linda Connelly, Meadow Lane Elementary paraprofessional; Bev Cornell, Stansberry Leadership Center human resources manager; Lisa Cox, Underwood Elementary teacher; Carl Crabtree, Prairie View Elementary counselor; Jane Crouse, Lee’s Summit Elementary health room clerk; Brian Davis, Summit Ridge Academy teacher; Cindy Denker, Lee’s Summit West High School teacher; Glenna Eaton, Hawthorn Hill Elementary teacher; Kent Eaton, Pleasant Lea Middle School teacher; Kim England, Lee’s Summit North High School teacher; Jeanne Estep, R-7 bus driver; Joel Estes, Lee’s Summit High School teacher; Susan Faulkenberry, Pleasant Lea Elementary teacher; Beth Files, Summit Lakes Middle School teacher; Randy Gammon, R-7 carpenter/locksmith; Victoria Gilbert, R-7 bus driver; LeeAnne Gourley, Greenwood Elementary teacher; John Hake, R-7 bus driver; Gary Hart, Lee’s Summit North High School teacher; Bob Harvey, Greenwood, Highland Park, Woodland and Pleasant Lea Elementary teacher and Pleasant Lea Middle School jazz band director; Ellan Helling, Summit Pointe Elementary teacher; Klonda Holt, R-7 bus driver; Susan Hornyan, Longview Farm Elementary teacher; Bill Hume, Lee’s Summit North High School library media specialist; Julie Hume, Lee’s Summit West High School teacher; Jaci Hurley, Longview Farm and Trailridge library media specialist; Bob Jones, Stansberry Leadership Center residency investigator; Carol Jordan, Lee’s Summit High School paraprofessional; Paula Kelly, Stansberry Leadership Center application specialist; Joni Kennedy, Highland Park Elementary teacher; Connie Ketteman, Lee’s Summit North High School cafeteria prep assistant; Bob Klausing, Lee’s Summit West High School teacher; Verlene Kling, Pleasant Lea Elementary and Pleasant Lea Middle School instructional evaluation specialist; Steve Lanier, Longview Farm Elementary teacher; Lynn Lysaght, Bernard Campbell Middle School secretary; Gerald Mask, R-7 bus driver; Bob Masterson, Mason Elementary custodian; Shellie Matthew, Lee’s Summit North High School teacher; Diana McClain, Lee’s Summit High School teacher; Debbie McDonald, Lee’s Summit North High School cafeteria cook; Linda McGrath, Pleasant Lea Elementary secretary; Karen McKarnin, Hawthorn Hill Elementary library media specialist; Cheryl McLaughlin, Hazel Grove Elementary and Lee’s Summit Elementary teacher; Sandee McMillin, Stansberry Leadership Center technology specialist II; Lisa McWain, Lee’s Summit West High School teacher; Kirt Mosier, Lee’s Summit West High School director of orchestras and Summit Technology Academy teacher; Michelle Myers, Trailridge Elementary teacher; Lyn Neven, Greenwood Elementary cafeteria baker; Greg Newport, Summit Lakes Middle School teacher; Gary Norris, R-7 bus driver; John Novotney, Stansberry Leadership Center assistant director data systems; Linda O’Neal, R-7 bus driver; David Owens, R-7 bus driver; Gary Perkins, R-7 Warehouse driver; Dr. Dianna Rentie, Stansberry Leadership Center executive director classified personnel; Dwayne Rex, R-7 bus driver; Rusty Rhoads, R-7 school bus mechanic; Patty Rick, Prairie View Elementary teacher; Dr. Ryan Rostine, Longview Farm Elementary principal; Jane Scanlon, Hazel Grove Elementary teacher; Linda Schroeder, Miller Park Center occupational therapy assistant; David Sears, Cedar Creek Elementary counselor; Sherrill See, Westview Elementary custodian; Tom See, Lee’s Summit West High School custodian; Linda Shady, Lee’s Summit West High School secretary; Bill Sharp, R-7 Transportation Services assistant director driver and safety; Claudia Simons, Great Beginnings Early Education Center paraprofessional; Denise Skahan, Lee’s Summit Elementary interventionist; Donna Southwick, Stansberry Leadership Center director of special services; Colleen Spedding, Prairie View Elementary teacher; Marge Steinhauser, Great Beginnings Early Education Center teacher; Berta Stephenson, Lee’s Summit Elementary cafeteria manager; Marlene Story, Stansberry Leadership Center business services specialist; Raymond Switzer, Lee’s Summit West High School teacher; Nancy Thompson, Lee’s Summit North High School teacher; Karen Transmeier, Lee’s Summit North High School licensed practical nurse/paraprofessional; Kathy Ward, Lee’s Summit West High School cafeteria manager; Susan Warner, Lee’s Summit West High School secretary; Manny Williams, R-7 bus driver; Pam Wining, Trailridge Elementary teacher; and Shirley Wolfskill, Summit Pointe Elementary cafeteria production staff.

Cindy McCurren receives LS R-7 Learning for Life Award for May

Cindy McCurren was named the Lee’s Summit R-7 Learning for Life Award winner for May. She is a health room clerk at Pleasant Lea Elementary School.

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

“Cindy has a tremendous outlook when she comes to work each day, always watching out for students and their best interests,” said a colleague. “She knows instinctively what is going on with kids.”  

Mason Elementary students inspire a new $1 million outdoor exhibit at Kansas City’s Science City

During the grand opening of Simple Machines At Play, Burns & McDonnell launches the next Battle of the Brains competition

Nine Mason Elementary students led a marching band and around 471 of their classmates and teachers into the grand opening of Science City’s first ever outdoor exhibit, Simple Machines At Play, on May 2. The Mason students wanted their school with them to experience the interactive exhibit inspired by their winning proposal in the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains, one of the nation’s most unique K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) competitions.

The morning ceremony included presentations by the team of students as well as officials from Burns & McDonnell. The Lee’s Summit North High School Marching Band led the winning team as well as all Mason Elementary students and staff member onto the grounds of Union Station for this special event. The winning students from Mason shared meaningful aspects of the design and construction process along with their experiences of working beside Burns & McDonnell professional staff members.

“Seeing their faces light up when they see their classroom sketches transformed into a million dollar exhibit at one of the nation’s premiere science centers – is truly a moment I will never forget,” said Ray Kowalik, chairman and CEO, Burns & McDonnell. “It’s a privilege to be part of a process where children not only give STEM a chance – but discover it’s fun and cool. And they are treated like rock stars at their school!”

In November of 2015, the proposal from Mason Elementary edged out 510 entries from 210 schools. The students won the top prize: a $50,000 grant for their school to use for STEM education plus the opportunity to work alongside Burns & McDonnell professionals to design and construct Simple Machines At Play.

“We didn’t just win a competition. We won a chance to experience a variety of STEM careers for more than a year,” said Jenny Reidlinger, a teacher at Mason Elementary. “We visited Burns & Mac and Science City multiple times to help shape the design and construction process. I have no doubt that there are future STEM professionals in my class thanks to Battle of the Brains.”  

Simple Machines At Play is a 12,000-square-foot exhibit based on the six simple machines, or mechanical devices, that have transformed our world by letting us do more work with less effort. By changing direction and the amount of force applied, simple machines help lift, pull, push, turn, cut, split and fasten. The student-inspired exhibit features:

  • Lever Lift, a beam that moves around a fixed point or fulcrum. It helps move a heavy load on one end when effort is applied to the other. Children can test their strength by trying to lift a globe — one that others can sit in — using different ropes hanging from the beam.
  • Just Plane Zippy, which has two exhilarating zip lines that double as inclined planes. Children discover how applying force — in this case pushing off a platform — allows them to “zip” faster.  
  • Acceleration Plane, which invites children to see how gravity works against friction by placing a variety of weighted wheels at the top of each ramp, then letting go.
  • The Wheel Deal, demonstrating how a wheel and axle make work easier. When you apply force, a wheel rotates on an axle, reducing friction to make it easier to move an object.
  • Pulley Power, featuring a rope looped around a wheel on an axle to pack a lot of power. By changing the direction of the force applied, you can lift a bowling ball with ease. Letting it go sends a tennis ball into the air.
  • Wedge It, a unique climbing wall demonstrating how wedges help lift or separate objects with less effort. Here, your hands and feet also serve as wedges when climbing.
  • Screw Slider, which lets children discover the power behind the screws — the threads. The closer the threads, the easier it is to turn.
  • Luckey Climber, a unique climbing structure that doubles as sculptural art. It spans three stories and provides expansive views of the entire space.

“One big reason Science City is so unique and internationally recognized is we’re turning to our customers – children, parents and educators – to help shape their own experiences. In this case, it was student inspiration that helped transform their dream into this wonderful, one-of-a-kind exhibit,” says George Guastello, president and CEO, Union Station.

Over the past nine years, Burns & McDonnell has invested nearly $6 million on six major exhibits that have transformed Science City. The Battle of the Brains competitions alone have attracted participation by 11,000 children from 50 area school districts.

“Children are learning as they explore, discover and create,” Mr. Guastello says. “These exhibits – inspired by their peers – all contain the essential elements of hands-on fun and play. From DNA to water and energy, the content areas of these experiences are importantly diverse. With the opening of Simple Machines At Play, we’re taking the next big step. And equally exciting is the news there’s even more to come!”

At the opening ceremony on May 2, Burns & McDonnell announced the launch of its fourth Battle of the Brains competition in the Kansas City area.

“We are committed to inspiring and developing the next generation of STEM professionals,” Mr. Kowalik said. “From curing diseases to uncovering new technologies, STEM is critical to our future. That’s why we will never stop mentoring and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow.”

To learn more about the Burns & McDonnell Battle of the Brains competition and how area schools can participate, please visit www.BOTBKC.com.

Underwood Elementary students learn Hands-Only CPR

Fifth- and sixth-grade students from Underwood Elementary recently learned how to save a life in two simple steps. Representatives from the American Heart Association taught the students how to perform Hands-Only CPR on April 26.

The students learned how to do this type of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), which is regular CPR without the mouth-to-mouth breaths. It is recommended when a teen or adult suddenly collapses in an “out-of-hospital” setting. It consists of two steps: (1) Call 9-1-1 (or ask someone to do this) and (2) push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

Kindergarten students learn about plants by creating garden

Hazel Grove Elementary kindergarten students learned hands-on lessons about plants this spring by creating a garden. The students, along with the school’s recess supervisor Kathy Lotspeich, planted  salad greens, carrots, sugar snap peas, broccoli and cauliflower as well as a strawberry patch.

The students’ first harvest took place April 27, and students had the opportunity to have salad from the garden they planted. The students’ experience correlates with the kindergarten science curriculum which includes the needs of plants and  weather’s impact on plants.

LS R-7 online registration to open July 6

Through InfoSnap online software, process is streamlined for families and school employees

Lee’s Summit R-7 families may begin online registration for the 2017-18 school year on July 6. The school district transitioned to online registration in summer 2016. The online procedures replaced paper enrollment in 2016 and are designed to make it easier for families to register and prepare for the school year.

Families may use their 2016-17 Powerschool username and password. Families new to the school district are asked to contact their child’s school for enrollment and registration.

In addition to the time-saving advantages, online registration improves the accuracy of data since parents will enter their children’s information directly into the program. The previous enrollment and registration process required parents to submit paper copies with school staff members entering data from these forms into the database. For convenience sake, families also have the opportunity to pay any school fees online.

Birth certificates (for new students only), proof of residency and immunization records are uploaded by families using the online program. More information about residency and other requirements for enrollment are available on the Lee’s Summit R-7 website at http://www.lsr7.org/parents/enroll/.

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