Excellence In Teaching winners honored at April 6 event
Michelle Uptegrove, life skills teacher at Cedar Creek Elementary, was named Lee’s Summit R-7 School District 2016 Teacher of the Year during a surprise announcement at an April 6 community reception. The reception also recognized 12 R-7 teachers who were named Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce Excellence In Teaching Award winners earlier this spring.
Excellence In Teaching winners are Sarah Courtney, Lee’s Summit North High School; Kim England, Lee’s Summit North High School; Ashley Furnell, Great Beginnings Early Education Center; Melissa Gouldsmith, Woodland Elementary; Joseph F. Keeney, Lee’s Summit North High School and Bernard Campbell Middle School; Steve Lanier, Longview Farm Elementary; Jewelee Lukowski, Summit Lakes Middle School; Karen Marlborough, Woodland Elementary; Stu Reece, Bernard Campbell Middle School, Jenny Reidlinger, Mason Elementary and Richardson Elementary; Lacey Rozycki, Summit Pointe Elementary; and Michelle Uptegrove, Cedar Creek Elementary.
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 6. They are Jessi Cox, Summit Pointe Elementary; Sue Selby, Highland Park Elementary; and Karrie Smythia, Lee’s Summit West High School.
All Excellence In Teaching winners were also honored with the Hertzog Leadership Award, established through the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council to honor Dr. Robert “Bud” Hertzog, 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, and 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, Mrs. Uptegrove will go on to participate in the Missouri Teacher of the Year program. An educator for 23 years, she teaches children with special needs at Cedar Creek Elementary. Mrs. Uptegrove previously taught in the life skills program and worked as a resource teacher for learning disabilities at Prairie View Elementary and worked for three years in the Blue Springs School District.
The Cedar Creek teacher shared that her teaching experience with special needs children began at age 10 when her youngest sister was born. “She has cerebral palsy, and I learned to bathe, feed and care for her,” she said. “As she grew, I read to her, taught her the alphabet, how to count and use her letter boards to communicate.”
Nomination forms highlighted Mrs. Uptegrove’s leadership skills, empathy and advocacy for all children. “Michelle’s passion for diversifying and including all students in the public education system goes above and beyond,” said a co-worker. “The pure love she has for these kids is admirable.”
Mrs. Uptegrove has also served as the district’s life skills collaboration host/facilitator, as a site-based team building facilitator, as Red Ribbon Week school coordinator and as a Student Council sponsor. At Cedar Creek Elementary, she worked in cooperation with Lee’s Summit Kohl’s Cares volunteers to create a sensory garden.
“I believe that teaching must always be based on partnerships as well as evidence-based best practices, interpreting formative data and making constant adjustments to meet students where they are functioning, both in academics and daily living skills,” she added.
Within the community, Mrs. Uptegrove has served as a volunteer for Special Olympics-Young Athletes; as a volunteer with the Girl Scout Association, assisting at troop meetings and making modifications for inclusion and positive participation for students needing extra support; and as a volunteer tutor for non-traditional students at Metropolitan Community College-Longview.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in education and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, both from Avila University. In addition, she has earned certifications in learning disabilities; social, emotional and behavioral disorders; intellectual disabilities; and K-6 elementary education.
Excellence In Teaching and Teachers of Distinction are pictured at the April 6 reception, including (front row, from left, perched/seated) Jessi Cox, Michelle Uptegrove, Melissa Gouldsmith, Jewelee Lukowski, Ashley Furnell, Kim England, Sarah Courtney, Karen Marlborough (back row, from left, standing) Lacey Rozycki, Karrie Smythia, Steve Lanier, Joseph Keeney, Jenny Reidlinger, Sue Selby and Stu Reece.