HUTCHINSON, Kan. — With the 2019-20 school year winding down, two Hutchinson Public Schools teachers have received district honors.
Amber Carithers, English teacher at Hutchinson High School, and Courtney Bleything, a fifth-grade teacher at Morgan Elementary School, have been nominated as the district’s entries in the Kansas National Teacher of the Year competition.
Normally, the district’s Classified Employee of the Year would be announced at the same time. Because of COVID-19, that recognition is being pushed to late summer.
The educators will be honored at the back-to-school convocation in August.
Still to be named are the Davis Teachers of the Year. The Davis Foundation will formally announce finalists and winners at the district’s back-to-school convocation in August.
Carithers began her career at HHS in the 2013-14 school year. She was the Davis Teacher of the Year for HHS in 2017-18. She’s also received The Hutchinson News Amazing Teacher Award and had been nominated for the state Horizon Award for new educators and the KTOY.
One of the nominations for Carithers came from Graber Elementary School Principal Jesse Ediger. The principal worked with Carithers when both were classroom teachers – Ediger with fourth graders at Graber and Carithers with high school students.
“Amber has worked tirelessly to form a lasting relationship with her students,” Ediger wrote in her nomination of Carithers. “She wrote handwritten Christmas cards to all of her students. … She attends athletic and activity events. She reaches every student and sees the light in them.”
Indeed, Carithers lists relationships with students as being critical for success.
“I believe that teacher-student relationships are essential to transforming a classroom climate and building a platform for student engagement,” Carithers wrote in her application. “These relationships are a platform because relationships won’t always result in automatic engagement or learning. It takes relationships, scaffolding, rigor, clear expectations, differentiation and so much more to work together in perfect synergy.”
Bleything started with the district during the 2005-06 school year. She was a 2012 Davis Foundation Teacher of the Year winner.
Like Carithers, Bleything relies heavily on relationships with students and their parents.
“Building strong relationships with students is a critical factor leading to student improvement,” the educator wrote in her application. “I also believe strong relationships with parents is a contributing factor as well. I send personal letters and notes to each student and their parents throughout the year. Parents are called regularly, and I meet with students to discuss strengths as well as concerns.”
The most crucial problems in public education are the challenges students face.
“Each child is unique and has a story that makes them who they are,” Bleything wrote. “That is exactly what makes teaching great, year after year. It is constantly changing based on the kids each year. Getting to know each child and provide the best learning environment for our kids is critical.”
Part of that environment in Bleything’s classroom is “rather extensive” library. Students are encouraged to pull off a book at any time for pleasure reading.
“When I have a reluctant reader at the beginning of the year, it is my mission to find something that child won’t be able to put down,” she wrote.