Highlands Elementary sixth grade teacher Marie Hooker didn’t believe the message at first.
She read the email, then read it again, then read it one more time for good measure before it set in: She had been named 2021 Kansas Parent Teacher Association Outstanding Educator of the Year.
The Kansas PTA recognizes just one teacher with the award each year, giving it to an outstanding educator who is “making significant and unique contributions in the field of education benefiting children and youth.” It’s the highest honor an individual teacher can receive from the Kansas PTA.
Highlands PTA Co-President Jen Davis nominated Hooker for the award. In her nomination, Davis described Hooker, who teaches English language arts and social studies, as “a consistent force of positivity and inspiration in the classroom.”
“It was really humbling, and just nice, to have a parent recognize the hard work that all teachers do,” Hooker said.
Hooker said while she’s been given the recognition, the award should go to all teachers statewide who have persevered through a post-virtual learning academic year.
Hooker said she tries to emphasize the importance of flexibility and “being able to roll with the punches” to her students — a message that took on outsized importance during the COVID-19 months. More than that, though, Hooker said teaching students to respect one another and be kind is her top priority, even more so than academics.
“There are some people in the world who you know are doing a job they were meant to do,” Davis wrote in her nomination letter. “They are so good at it that they make it look easy and natural every single day. That is Marie. She exemplifies compassion, preparedness and confidence.”