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September 27, 2017


MRH Names Teachers of the Year for 2017-18

Exuberant applause and, in some cases, a few tears, rippled through several MRH classrooms Wednesday as four dedicated instructors were surprised with Teacher of the Year honors for their respective buildings.  

At the Early Childhood Center, kindergarten teacher Suzanne Rosenthal was named not only the ECC Teacher of the Year, but also the districtwide Teacher of the Year.  ECC principal Dr. Cynthia Hebenstreit authored Rosenthal's nominating petition.

"Suzanne is a teacher who demonstrates a strong commitment to her students, parents, and colleagues.  She is calm, caring, and brings all of her experience and expertise to her daily work in the classroom.

Suzanne welcomes all children to her classroom and works diligently with them to ensure they have the skills they need to be successful socially and academically.  When children are in need of additional support, Suzanne collaborates with resource teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, instructional specialists, and counselors to develop individual educational plans that promote student growth. 

Children and colleagues benefit from her strong organization, excellent follow through, and deep knowledge of the reading and writing continuum.

In 2008, her work on the Literacy Cadre as a reading specialist was crucial in developing a framework for Response to Intervention.  This foundational work served as the building blocks for our robust system of RTI supports for children.  Suzanne has continued to contribute to this work through her active participation during collaborative meetings. The group often benefits from her expertise and her thinking often influences instructional outcomes.  

Suzanne’s work on behalf of her colleagues does not go unnoticed.  She has stepped up again and again to represent them on building and district level committees.   Many years ago, she took on the leadership role of the NEA and brought a calm and reasoned approach to the NEA’s interactions with district leadership.  She has returned to this work while continuing her volunteerism as a teacher representative on the Compensation & Benefits Task Force.  Most recently, at the building level, she served on the Transition Committee and was instrumental in decisions that positively impacted classroom instruction in our new spaces.  In the days leading to the opening of school, when time was short to unpack and set up new classrooms, she led with a positive mindset and assured her colleagues that everything was going to be great!

Her commitment over her 16 years in the ECC community is unwavering and she deserves to be recognized for her consistent efforts."

In nominating Elementary School teacher Chris Smith, principal Dr. Jason Adams cited his work toward bolsterinjg curriculum.

"Chris is a quiet, thoughtful leader who challenges himself and others to do the very best for students. His classroom environment is positive, organized, and centered around student learning. He is patient and calm in supporting students and partnering with families. Among his colleagues, Chris is viewed as a leader. He embraces technology and integrates into it all aspects of his instructional approach. He often serves as a “go to person” for curriculum development and developing connections between content areas. During our recent grade-level changes at MRHE, Chris willingly moved from 4th grade to 5th grade and then to 6th grade. In each of those instances, Chris rolled up his sleeves and assumed a leadership role. Chris’ willingness to serve as a teacher leader during this transition was instrumental in bridging the gap between 5th and 6th grade. The results of Chris’ transition to 6th grade played out in a 15% increase in ELA student achievement. The highest 6th grade ELA scores MRHE has ever had. While scores are not everything, in this situation, they reflect the hard work, determination, and leadership of Chris Smith."

At the MIddle School, the award was presented to Special School District instructor Kay Burbank, whom principal Mike Dittrich described as an advocate for all kids who lives the cornerstones of MRH on a daily basis. 

"While Ms. Burbank is assigned to only a small portion of our students, she understands that building relationships with all students is in the best interest of success.  She has a gift for blending interactions for all students at MRHMS, and not just focusing on a small portion.  

One of the first things I noticed about Ms. Burbank was her devotion and understanding of what it is to be a part of MRH.  Ms. Burbank has been overheard numerous times saying, “You don’t get treated like this everywhere as a special school district teacher.”  Yes, the official employer of our teacher of the year is Special School District of Saint Louis County but make no mistake, she is MRH through and through and a highly dedicated member of the middle school staff."

Veteran instructor Dr. Rob Welker was named High School Teacher of the Year.  Principal Dr. Kevin Grawer says Dr. Welker has always had a certain connection with his students.

"Students flock to the room for various reasons.  For one, they need academic support in a class and Dr. Welker is always ready to help.  Secondly, the students feel safe and comfortable being in Dr. Welker’s presence.  Thirdly, they seek a caring adult who will offer them parent-like advice in a non-condescending way.  MRH HS students have been assembling in Dr. Robert Welker’s classroom for the last 11 years because of the person Dr. Welker is, the relationships he has built, and the teacher he has become.

One time I was in Dr. Welker’s class and observed him get quite upset at a small group of students who were not on task. He let them know in a firm way that they were out of line and that “this would never happen again in room 309.” The whole incident took less than ten seconds and it was over.  The amazing thing was how the kids reacted so positively to the re-focusing as did Dr. Welker.  I know that only someone with a super-strong relationship with kids can have that effect on them.  I asked one of the students how they felt after being reprimanded by Dr. Welker and he said something quite impactful. 'Well, I feel really bad I let Dr. Welker down because he’s kind like my dad.'"

All four honorees were surprised in their classrooms by MRH Superintendent of Schools Karen I. Hall, who was accompanied by their respective principals.   

Rosenthal, the districtwide Teacher of the Year, will be honored October 13 at the Mid-County Chamber of Commerce as Educator of the Year.   And on November 12, she'll be feted as an Emerson Excellence in Teaching recipient in a ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton. 

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.