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.