SMSD News: Shawnee Mission shout outs!

National Merit Finalists 

Shawnee Mission is proud to celebrate all students who were named 2022 National Merit Finalists. This is one of the highest honors for high school seniors in the United States. These 13 SMSD students are among 15,000 finalists, placing them in the top one percent of more than 1.5 million students in the United States. They first qualified by taking the 2020 PSAT, and are able to advance to earn scholarships, worth about $30 million. Click here to see the names of the finalists.

Presidential Scholar Candidates 

Nine members of the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) Class of 2022 were named Presidential Scholars candidates. These students, representing all comprehensive high schools, were among approximately 5,000  candidates named out of nearly 3.6 million high school seniors across the country. They were selected based on exceptional scores on the ACT or SAT, and were nominated by a school administrator based on demonstrating superior academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Click here to learn more about who received this honor. 

Megan Bogner from Shawnee Mission South advanced to the next step, and was named a 2022 semifinalist. 

Best U.S. High Schools 

All of Shawnee Mission’s comprehensive high schools are ranked on the 2022 U.S. News and World Report list of Best U.S. High Schools. The rankings are based on college readiness, college curriculum breadth, state assessment proficiency, state assessment performance, underserved student performance, and graduation rate. Shawnee Mission East was ranked as the #3 school in Kansas. 

Challenge Awards 

Crestview Elementary and Merriam Park Elementary are 2021 Challenge Award recipients. Challenge Awards recognize Kansas schools that are making a notable difference in student achievement despite facing significant challenges in their school population. Only 100 schools in Kansas are recognized with this award, administered by the Confidence in Education Task Force. This spring, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard led a recognition of Crestview and Merriam Park during a Board of Education meeting. 

“We are so proud of these schools for being recognized for all they are doing to ensure students are achieving at high levels,” Dr. Hubbard expressed.

Kansas Teacher of the Year Honors  

This spring, two Shawnee Mission educators were recognized in the Kansas Teacher of the Year program. Amy Sachse, fourth-grade teacher at Corinth Elementary, was named a Kansas Teacher of the Year semifinalist in this region. Wraye Royle, a seventh-grade math teacher at Indian Hills, who also represented the SMSD was also honored. The Kansas Teacher of the Year program honors 109 educators each year for their outstanding work. It also invites them to be a part of a network of exemplary teachers in Kansas who lead on school improvement and performance. All Shawnee Mission schools were able to nominate one teacher to be named their teacher of the year. This spring, the district formally honored these educators in a ceremony. Click here to see a list of all SMSD teachers of the year. 

R&D Forum Achievements 

This year, the SMSD celebrated 60 years of the Research and Development Forum. This two-week extravaganza of student excellence brought thousands of community members to see student artwork, science, career, and technical education, and innovation projects from the 2021-2022 school year. At the conclusion of this event, this year’s Next Great Idea winners received funds to advance their ideas. Scholarships were also presented to Regnier Award winners, honored for going “Over and Above” with their work. Click here to view a full list of honorees and for links to watch The Next Great Idea Competition and award ceremony. The SMSD thanks the Regnier Family for ongoing support of the R&D Forum. 

JAG-K Success
Shawnee Mission students demonstrated outstanding skills at this year’s Jobs for America’s Graduates Kansas (JAG-K) State Career Development Conference. At this event, three high school students qualified for the first-ever JAG-K national competition. 

They include: 

Phoenix Riesner, a junior from Shawnee Mission West High School

Anylah Jones, a junior from Shawnee Mission North High School

Damien Pool, a sophomore from Shawnee Mission North High School

Westridge Middle School’s JAG-K team also earned the first-place title for the second consecutive year. Multiple students took home individual honors. JAG-K is an in-school program that helps students build skills to prepare them for college and career. Click here to view the complete list of awards earned by SMSD students at the state competition.

Journalism Honor The Kansas Scholastic Press Association honored Tucker Love, journalism instructor at Shawnee Mission South High School, with the 2022 Sunflower Award. This is given to new advisors who show enthusiasm and dedication to building a strong journalism program and aims to encourage teachers to remain in the profession, according to the KSPA website.

Love was a Shawnee Mission journalism student, student-taught in Shawnee Mission and has expressed appreciation for the ways all Shawnee Mission high school journalism advisors have strengthened his work as a teacher. 

Aspirations in Computing This year, three Shawnee Mission high school students earned Aspirations in Computing awards. Hannah Poe, a senior from Shawnee Mission South, was named an affiliate winner. Kate Swift, a Shawnee Mission South junior, and Grace Cramblett, a Shawnee Mission Northwest senior and cybersecurity student, were recognized with affiliate honorable mentions. This honor is given by The National Center for Women and Information Technology. Honorees are selected based on a long list of qualities including computing and leadership experience and tenacity in the face of barriers to access. The recognition is given to honor students for their computing-related achievements and interests and to encourage them to pursue their passions. These students were instructed by Vince LaVergne, Shawnee Mission South math teacher, and Jessica Tickle, engineering Signature Program instructor. 

Animation Top Prize Sana Soureshjani, Shawnee Mission South Senior and animation Signature Program student, earned first-place recognition at the eMagine media Festival. She was recognized for the animation she submitted in the 3D Mechanical Model category. Her outstanding work was selected by a panel of industry professionals in a contest that drew students from 26 schools. Soureshjani was taught by animation Signature Program teacher Bryan Johnson.

Hocker Grove Artist Nirvana Mullin, an eighth-grader from Hocker Grove Middle School, earned a top honor from the Kansas Art Education Association. Mullin’s symbolic self-portrait earned a second-place award in the statewide Youth Art Month exhibit. As an honoree, Mullin was recognized in a state ceremony and received a prize pack with art supplies, a certificate and ribbon. Mullin’s art teacher is Alyssa Passmore. 

Nelson-Atkins Award Megan Ellis, district visual arts coordinator and art teacher at Lenexa  Hills, was presented with a Carole Ann Ladd Legacy Scholar Award. This award honors the memory of Nelson Atkins Museum of Art staff member Carole Ann Ladd and celebrates educators who continue her legacy of empowering students to reach their greatest potential through the arts. Ellis was presented the award in a surprise ceremony at Lenexa Hills with all of her students and colleagues present. A plaque engraved with her name will be on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  

NEA Recognitions
The Kansas National Education Association selected Natalie Johnson-Berry as the 2023 state nominee for the NEA Foundation Teaching Excellence Award. Johnson-Berry is an English Language Arts teacher at Shawnee Mission North. This program recognizes educators from across the country who promote excellence in teaching and advocacy for the profession. Individuals selected to become the national finalist receive a $10,000 award and the national winner receives $25,000.

Rebecca Schultz, special education teacher at Shawnee Mission Northwest, has been chosen to serve on the NEA IDEA Resource Cadre. NEA President Becky Pringle noted this is a prestigious position among NEA membership. It means that Schultz will be a part of a team of experts who will work to identify and respond to current and emerging issues related to disabilities to support members and students.

Bobette Sawka, therapist at Arrowhead, was selected to participate in NEA’s Transformation Journey for Racial Justice Co-Conspirators work for 2022. This is a 40-member nationwide cadre. This group will engage in affinity group work and provide an opportunity to receive culturally responsive coaching and teaching.

Dr. Hubbard congratulated all of these teachers on these prestigious recognitions and selections this spring. “We appreciate the work they are doing as educators and are proud that they represent the Shawnee Mission School District,” Dr. Hubbard added. 

SkillsUSA Winners
Broadmoor Bistro students have served up a new batch of accomplishments. 

Several earned top honors at the 2022 Kansas SkillsUSA State Competition. They include: Morgan Dusin, SM South junior, who won overall first place. Kaori Peterson, SM North senior, earned first place in commercial baking. Noah Belcher, a senior who enrolls in the SMSD culinary arts program from out-of-district, earned overall second place, and Josh Gardner, a Shawnee Mission South sophomore, earned second place in table service.

Kaori Peterson is preparing to compete in a national competition this June in Atlanta, Georgia. SkillsUSA is an education association that works to make sure America has a skilled workforce. It serves middle and high school students preparing for careers in trade, technical, and skilled service occupations. 

SM East Tennis Champions The Shawnee Mission East boys tennis team earned its third consecutive Kansas State Activities Association championship. The team also celebrates individual titles including:

Gregor Wiedeman, sophomore, who was state champion in singles. Graham Faris, junior, earned third place in singles.

In doubles, Henry Blair and Jordan Jenkins, seniors, placed seventh, and Jake Hanson, freshman, and George Kahl, sophomore, placed 10th. The team was coached by Andy Gibbs.

Extra Yard for Teachers Erin Stout, Kindergarten teacher at Rising Star Elementary, was honored with the College Football Playoff’s Extra Yard for Teachers recognition. Stout received two complimentary tickets to a Kansas State University football game. At this game, she will be honored as the SMSD representative as teachers from across Kansas are recognized. She also has the opportunity to win $500 for a classroom project. In addition to this honor, Stout was recognized earlier this year as the Rising Star Elementary Teacher of the year. 

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