Graphic: Teach It Forward - Featured educators

As part of our #TeachItForward movement, we're featuring exceptional educators who inspire their classrooms, challenge their students and battle adversity.  Read their stories below. 

Gary Wommack; Marana, Arizona

Teaches: Language arts at Marana Middle School

What others are saying: “Mr. Wommack’s wide range of experiences helps him to bring balance and enthusiasm to his students. He looks for ways to engage students with the work they read as well as to inspire them as young writers.  Mr. Wommack has helped to lead his department in the right direction to best impact student learning.  He is kind and patient and always has his room open during lunch for students to come in at work or even just "hang out" with friends.  

“Mr. Wommack provides afterschool tutoring and is a district instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI).  As an NCI instructor, he trains educators in the best strategies to use to help students resolve conflict in the earliest stages possible.”
– Andrea Divijak, associate principal

Kathryn Bailey

Teaches: Special-needs English; Quincy High School

What others are saying: “I’ve had the chance to observe Mrs. Bailey’s class and the interaction with her students.  Her students seem to be very comfortable and respectful towards her.  She is very well liked by both staff and students.  Not only does she put in hours of work in school, she also helps with other extracurricular activities.” – Colin Ash, Horace Mann agent

Bailey’s favorite teaching moment or memory: “My most memorable teaching moments have not actually happened in the classroom.  Rather, they are when I run into old students, and they tell me about how they are going to college or working at a job they love!  It is so rewarding to know that they are using their education to pursue their dreams.  

“My students have all been diagnosed with some type of disability.   When a student is able to overcome his or her disability and doesn’t let it get in the way of fulfilling their dreams, I know I am doing the right thing.

Teaches: Third grade at Bracken Elementary

What others are saying:  “She has always embraced hands-on learning and is leading the way with a new gardening project.  She works with her students to ensure that they have their composting, plant sales, and gardens working in top shape.  She also does the chore of putting out the bus signs with her students every day.  Her academic results are among the top in the state, and she truly is an amazing, caring, inspiring teacher!” – Katie Decker, principal
Rachelle Bennett

Teaches: Art at several elementary schools

What others are saying: “You can tell Rachelle loves to work with students, as she goes beyond school requirements and takes on projects that appeal to the creativity of her students.  Particularly through where she has several fully funded projects.  I believe Rachelle’s dedication to teaching is second to none.” – Stan Hefner, Horace Mann agent

Jon Boyd

Special education at Lebanon High School.

His favorite teaching moment or memory: “My most memorable teaching moment occurred outside the classroom.  ‘Billy’ was a high school student, struggling with drugs and alcohol, as well as a prime candidate for dropping out of school.  I always encouraged him during class and made sure he was caught up on notes and homework.  I believed in him, and I told him that several times a day.  He ended up staying in school and graduating with his class.  

“Not long ago, I attended a county-wide special education meeting at a local high school.  ‘Billy’ was there – not as a student, but as a county employee.  He was excited to tell me that with my support and guidance, he was able to make better choices, leading him to better opportunities for his future.  He thanked me for all the time I invested in him in high school.  I was so proud of him.” 
Theresa Czachor

Teaches: Librarian at Rutland Town School

What others are saying: “Theresa has an infectious smile and laugh that will brighten anyone’s day.  She is always giving presentations at family nights and other events at the school to keep families involved and in the loop.  She has completed multiple projects through over the last three years and has a goal to complete at least one each year.  She provides students with the best experiences and materials, because even when the budget doesn’t allow, she finds a way to make it happen.  She is totally dedicated to the educational community.” – Steve Morneau, Horace Mann agent

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “As a librarian, it is always exciting for me to talk to students about great books I have read and want others to read as well.  Each time I recommend a book to a student to read from the library, I wait patiently for that student to finish the book so I can get their reaction. Whenever a student comes back with that look of excited anticipation on their face asking for another book ‘just like it’ or asking for the ‘next book in the series,’ that is my most memorable teaching moment. My truly avid readers pass my book recommendations on to their friends and before you know it, we have a reading frenzy taking place in school!”

Carol Fisk

Teaches: Physical education at La Paloma Academy South

What others are saying: “Ms. Fisk has set a new standard of excellence for Physical Education programs in the La Paloma Academy schools!  She encourages each student to master P.E. and health standards and provides them with the tools to do so.  She puts her heart into every teaching opportunity, and takes time to ensure our students experience the joy of physical education while maintaining their safety.  

She has developed an afterschool sports program, is a team player and is always ready to lend a helping hand to fellow teachers and staff. From student government to staff morale builders, any time there is a need on our campus, Ms. Fisk is there to fill it.”
 – Geneva Vasquez, English Language Learning (ELL) teacher, La Paloma Academy South

Her favorite teaching moment or memory:  “I had several students who had never played basketball before, had never owned a basketball, nor had an older sibling to shoot hoops with. My PE class afforded them the opportunity to learn how. As my novices shot and made their first basket, they looked at me, their faces lit up with unmeasurable joy and satisfaction at their accomplishment.  Their smiles are etched in my memory and heart!”
Teaches: Eighth grade social studies and English at Presque Isle Middle School

What others are saying: “Students are drawn to and have a high level of respect for Mr. Guerrette due to his very kind and gentle nature.   Each year during spring break, Mr. Guerrette coordinates a trip to Washington, D.C. for eighth grade students.  This trip allows students to experience our nation’s capital versus just reading about it in their history books.  

“Mr. Guerrette spends a good part of the year holding fund raising events for this trip, which include walkathons, bake sales, student car washes and many, many more events that take his evenings and weekends. These selfless acts benefit his students by enriching their middle school history experience.”
– P.J. Kinney, Horace Mann agent
Teaches: Guidance counselor at Weston High School

What others are saying: “Amy always exemplifies what an outstanding guidance counselor should be. She goes above and beyond her job duties to help students develop social skills and succeed in school.  She also assists students with the process of making career decisions by helping them choose a career or educational program.” – Carey Norwood, Horace Mann agent

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “A high school student was having a hard time at home with family.  Her situation was not the best, but she was managing.  She would come and talk to me most every day, and I helped her get what she needed to graduate plus a listening ear when things were really bad.  

She overcame so many obstacles, and today she has a job, is happily married and has a beautiful baby.  We are Facebook friends, and she messages me sporadically just to say ‘thanks.’  With every ‘thanks,’ she reminds me of why I do what I do.”
Ronda Hoover

Teaches: Kindergarten at Greencastle Primary School

What others are saying:  “Ronda was our daughter’s kindergarten teacher and went above and beyond to help her adjust to school.  Our daughter cried EVERY day until Christmas so it was a very trying time, but Ronda worked with her and with us to get her through that time. It had to be hard to work so closely with our daughter plus handle the other 19 students who had needs.  I can’t express how wonderful she was.  

Ronda treats all of her students like they are her own children.  Parents often request her for their younger children because of how great she is with the kindergarteners. Our daughter is now in 2nd grade and loves school. I feel that it is because of the foundation that Ronda gave her.”
– Jeff Koons, Horace Mann agent, and Julie Koons, Horace Mann product specialist     

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “I always try to make new kindergarten parents feel at ease about this next big step in their child's life.  I assure them that as a mother of three grown boys, I have been in their shoes, and I am here to support them as well as their children. 

I believe that communication is key to growing wonderful kindergarten kiddos! I try to send several newsletters each week, update a class website and even send pictures and text messages during the school day.  Parents love to know what is going on with their most precious possessions.  I am thankful to have the important job that I have, and I am blessed to be part of so many wonderful children's lives.”

Teaches: Special education at Woodland High; Woodland, Washington

What others are saying: “D’Ann teaches special-need students valuable job skills for independent lives after high school through the ‘Partners in Transition’ program.  D’Ann contacts local businesses to find employment opportunities, and then transports her students to their jobs – providing on the job training.

“She is creative and she cares – so much so that she has gone above and beyond to find unique opportunities for her students.  She gives them hope for a brighter future.  D’Ann genuinely cares. She thinks outside the box and teaches her special-need students unique skills for a brighter future.”
 – Bridget May Schrader, Horace Mann agent
Kevin Huffman

Title: Principal at Robberson Community School

What others are saying: “Dr. Huffman has been the principal at Robberson Community School in Springfield, Missouri for 17 years.  He has strong ties to the students, parents and community.  This year, under Dr. Huffman’s leadership, Robberson has become Springfield’s first “community school.”  This is an amazing opportunity that includes educators, parents, students, and the community as a whole in the education of the students.

“The community school strives to include families in the services it offers.  Parents participate in surveys and group discussions to help determine what they need as far as afterschool and extracurricular programs, family financial education, and basic healthy living education.  Robberson currently provides family dinner every week night for anyone who wishes to attend.  

“Dr. Huffman is not only a fantastic leader he is a wonderful person who genuinely cares about the needs of his students and their families.  No educator I know deserves to be recognized more.”
– Julie Kudnra, Horace Mann agent

Karen Jameson

Teaches: Third grade at Peachland Elementary

What others are saying: Horace Mann Agent Reid Nicol nominated Karen, who had her first article published in the April issue of AppleSeeds, a social studies magazine for children aged 6 to 10. When she got an email from the publishers of AppleSeeds Magazine, informing her that they had accepted her article for publication, she said it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “As a third grade teacher, I'm passionate about instilling a love of reading in my students. Even after 30 years of teaching, it still thrills me to see a student ‘take off’ with books!  An ‘a-ha’ moment might be sparked during an author study, when a student falls in love with a writer's works. It could crystallize when a child gets hooked on a series and discovers a new world of beloved characters.  Sometimes, it magically appears when a child connects to the emotions of a poem.   Watching my students race to the library at recess time or call dibs on a favored book is the cherry on top.   Getting kids jazzed about reading is what it's all about!”

Erika Kruggel

Teaches: Art and photography at Harrisburg High School

What others are saying: “The flexibility and true compassion Mrs. Kruggel employs – not just as a teacher, but every day in her life – is exemplary.  She is a completely selfless individual, willing to place all other needs above her own – a model for students and staff.  Mrs. Kruggel is visionary in her instructional practice, with a simple goal in mind: to take all students from where they are to where they can go. 

“Mrs. Kruggel is a terrific colleague, continually looking for individual and collective connections to make the culture of Harrisburg High School a positive and warm environment.  She touches so many, in so many ways, yet so quietly.  Her humility and will define her entire life.”
– Kevin Lein, principal 

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “When a student has the light come on and they ‘get it,’ it feels like the Fourth of July. We celebrate their accomplishment, and then we start working for the next group of fireworks.  The potential every student has is only limited by lack of confidence.  Once they find it, their world is so much brighter.”

Deb Larned

Teaches: Second grade at Coyote Trail Elementary

What others are saying: “Deb has the same passion today as when she started 30 years ago.  She treats her students as if they were her own kids. She has always gone out of her way to attend activities her former students are involved in, always attends athletic and fine art events and never misses graduation to see her kids’ successes.” – Cindy Ruich, Director of Student Services at Marana Unified School District 

Larned's favorite teaching moment or memory: “I love teaching and have taught for 34 years.  As a second grade regular education inclusion teacher, I co-teach with the special education teacher. There are numerous memorable moments with our students. The expression on the faces of the students when they have their “a-ha” moment after trying to learn a concept is priceless. The best part is having students come back or contact me as high school students or adults and tell me their memorable moments in my class or to thank me for teaching them. I cherish knowing I have made a difference in a student’s life.”

Stacy Leonard

Teaches: Second grade at C.T. Sewell Elementary

What others are saying: “Ms. Leonard demonstrates the characteristics of an outstanding teacher, as she promotes compassion and a standard of excellence. Ms. Leonard continually encourages students with special needs such as autism, health impairments, and other learning disabilities to strive for their best performances.  She maintains a nurturing, loving atmosphere where students are taught to collaborate with and depend on one another.  

“Ms. Leonard shows all students how to appreciate each other’s differences, and this environment of trust and security promotes tremendous academic growth. Individuality and creativity are fostered along with vital independence and self-confidence.”
– Josh Lamers, Horace Mann agent

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “I had been teaching for five years when I moved to Las Vegas in 1997.  I had heard about all the schools being built and the exciting new developments and changes taking place, and I was eagerly looking forward to being a part of that. However, I was hired through a phone interview, and I never actually saw the school I would be working at until just before I was to start.  When I finally stood in front of the school, I just stared at the anti-drug signs posted all over the chain link fence.  I wasn’t hired at a sparkling, sensational new school at all, but an old school in a somewhat dangerous and questionable part of town.  

“Needless to say, I was nervous and worried about what this new position would require.  That year, it involved teaching unforgettable students like Sammy, Anjelica, Tanisha, Diego, Joe, and many others.  Even after what is now twenty years of teaching, the students in that first grade class continue to be some of the most special and wonderful children I ever had the chance to know.  They were sweet, intelligent, and thoughtful learners who needed me and made me realize how important my job really is. They didn’t let hardship get in their way, it made them thirstier to learn and grow, and they came to me daily for that chance. Until that year, I had always liked teaching, but never really appreciated the significance of what we do.” 

Brenda Moynihan

Teaches: Fifth grade at C.T. Sewell Elementary

What others are saying: “On any given day, Ms. Moynihan can be found giving up her lunchtime to provide students with extra academic support. Ms. Moynihan maintains an open door to students before and after school to provide opportunity for tutoring and extra assistance with assignments. She builds positive relationships with students by making each student feel special and valued as an individual. 

Ms. Moynihan supports ongoing communication with parents by emailing and calling, not only with concerns but also with praise for student successes. She recognizes the importance of being visible and accessible to both students and parents of the Sewell community, and she has been a great addition to our staff.”
– Josh Lamers, Horace Mann agent 

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “During my first year of teaching, my students threw me a surprise party for teacher appreciation week.  They spent a week preparing the surprise, and then they all showed up early to school with drinks, snacks and decorations ready to throw me a party.  They asked another teacher to let them in my class early, and they decorated the room with streamers, balloons and various decorations. When I arrived, I opened my classroom door to half of my class yelling “Surprise!” It was a great morning, and I was so honored and touched that my students went so out of their way to make me feel appreciated.  Right then, I knew that I touch their lives just as much as they touch mine every day.”

Teresa Myro

Teaches: First grade at C.T. Sewell Elementary

What others are saying: “Ms. Myro’s class is full of students who are engaged and self-motivated. During frequent classroom visits, I’ve observed Ms. Myro differentiating instruction and meeting the needs of all her students.  
“During reading instruction, Ms. Myro challenges each group using book walks, connecting text to self and utilizing challenging comprehension strategies. Throughout the lesson, Ms. Myro gives her students opportunities to respond and attends to positive behavior generating an overall positive classroom environment. She embraces the idea of innovative and effective teaching.”
 – Josh Lamers, Horace Mann agent 

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “To me, the smallest memories that happen daily are those that mean the most.  It seems simple, but every morning I am greeted with the biggest smiles and hugs from my students.  They are truly happy to be at school, and I know my students will be successful if they LOVE to learn and want to be a part of the culture of care in my classroom! It truly is the best feeling in the world to have a student who is struggling or just not understanding a concept eventually grasp it.”

Teaches: Drama at Minot High School as well as debate and speech classes at Central Campus High 

What others are saying: “Mrs. Rauschenberger exemplifies what it takes to be a teacher for high school students.  With patience, respect, and a large dose of positive energy, she leads her students not only through the classes that she teaches, but also as she directs the high school play.” – Jason Rohrer, Horace Mann agent

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “I have had the privilege of sharing my classroom with free thinkers and active learners, and the best lessons have sprung from projects those students produced from great literature.  I love to get kids up front sharing ideas with their classmates, whether it is a language arts class or a speech class.  It's a rush for me to see students go from being exceptionally nervous to growing confident in their speaking abilities.”
Teaches: Spanish at Marana Middle School

What others are saying: “Ms. Robinson is positive, energetic, and deeply committed to her students’ success. She regularly goes above and beyond to collaborate and plan. She works diligently to incorporate hands-on projects and group work into her instruction. Her students have sung Christmas carols in Spanish, written stories about leprechauns in Spanish and integrated an Olympic theme into her classroom. She willingly translates for parents, attends events and assists with projects. It is an honor to work with Ms. Robinson.” – Kristin Reidy, principal

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “When a student has an a-ha moment, I am a huge fan of high fives. I then pause the class and have that student’s a-ha moment serve as the model of thinking for the activity. Of course, when they leave the classroom for the day, I either (a) do the ‘Toyota jump’; or (b) just sit and smile for the rest of the day.”
Teaches: First grade at Jefferson Elementary

What others are saying: “Mrs. Schaefer has been teaching it forward with  Since her own project was fully funded, she has a new listening center for her students.  She has taken it upon herself to share her positive experience with other teachers and encourage them to create their own projects.  Mrs. Schaefer shared the community’s information on our Facebook page, and helped get funding for another community’s school.  She goes above and beyond to get extra supplies for her students, and she encourages other teachers to create projects.  Mrs. Schaefer is looking out for teachers in all communities – not just her own.” – Don Wendel, Horace Mann agent

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “I love seeing the look of wonder and excitement for learning in my students' faces. Their thirst for knowledge is what gets me up every morning. I am so lucky to be going to a job that I love!  

“My most memorable teaching moments happen daily when students ask questions that advance their knowledge beyond what they thought they were capable of.  And, they happen when there is a brief hiccup in our day, and the students all recite that we're going to, "Go with the flow!"  Every moment of every day is memorable.”
Teaches: Special education at Moniteau High School

What others are saying: “Wendy continuously puts together, organizes and participates in school events. She grew up here and graduated from Moniteau High and now teaches special education. She’s president of PSEA and is on the school board. She is not only a help to the school but also the community, as she is always involved with events.” – Kathleen Harding, Horace Mann agent

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “When I see the light bulb go on in students, it's the greatest feeling! Teaching special education and watching these students struggle day in and day out is tough, but when all of a sudden, they get it, it makes me so proud! And it doesn't always have to be students with special needs: it’s every kid. They all have their own little battles to get through.”
Bill Thompson

Teaches: Graphic arts at Luverne High School

What others are saying: “For many years, Bill has gone the extra mile, including taking a day from his own students and teaching a class at the regional Science and Nature Conference at our local university. This program brings several hundred students from dozens of districts together for an exciting hands-on day, focusing on real applications of science and nature exploration.
For the past two years, Bill has led 10-12 of his students through an amazing project. Bill secured a totaled GMC Sonoma from a local dealer. He and his class transformed the useless vehicle into a completely electric vehicle. The students learned immensely from this project, and Bill has spoken of transforming shop class beyond traditional word-working to actual hands-on experience in an ever changing world."
– Kevin Dubs, Horace Mann agent

His favorite teaching moment or memory: “There have been many memorable teaching moments in my career as a technology education teacher, but helping a group of students build from scratch a drivable, electric vehicle from scratch is near the top.

Seeing a student make a learning connection makes your day.  Those are the moments that make you realize why you are a teacher.  In our technology-driven age, students are more connected than ever to electronic media, and hands-on learning engages their physical and mental capabilities through project-based learning.”

Eric Tinley

Teaches: Social studies at Princeton High School

What others are saying: “Eric has taught all four of my children in school and also has coached them in either basketball or volleyball.  He has a real heart for the kids at PHS and continues to keep in touch with them after high school.  He is a great encourager to all of the kids and can get down to their level.” – Cindy Musselman, Horace Mann agent

His favorite teaching moment or memory: I just attempt to be strong, supportive and caring with my classes and teams.  I'm here whenever they need academic help, extra practice time or just another person to talk to.  It is very rewarding whenever students come back and visit me.”

Cynthia Walls

Teaches: Pre-kindergarten/elementary gifted and talented at Thrall Elementary

What others are saying: “Cynthia’s classroom is always full of excitement.  She has very high expectations for her students and sets the bar high at each individual student’s level.  She actively participates in campus activities and has helped with interviews, English-as-a-second-language guidance, school culture activities, and building a positive campus atmosphere.  She maintains a positive relationship with staff, students, and parents.” – James Johnson, Horace Mann agent

Her favorite teaching moment or memory: “Every day I am amazed at what each and every one of my students accomplishes.  When I asked my students to write a sentence about a farm in their writing journals, I found just as much joy in the student who wrote five sentences (yes, five!) about a farm as I did in the student who correctly copied the word “farm” in their journal. It's growth, and each accomplishment is great, regardless of what it is. 

“These students come to me from all types of different backgrounds, and at the beginning of the year, most of them cannot write their name, recognize their letters or count – let alone attempt to write a word or a sentence.   I hear a lot of "I can't" or "I don't know how" those first couple of weeks of school.  I tell my students that "I can't" is not allowed and in our room we say "I can try!"  Each and every day, I ask them to give me their best and I see their best in all that they do.  

I have a mentor who once told me, ‘Set the bar high for all of your students. They may not reach it, but they will reach a lot farther than if you set the bar too low.’  This is the standard by which I teach.”

Teaches: Language arts at Marana Middle School

What others are saying: “Mr. Wommack’s wide range of experiences helps him to bring balance and enthusiasm to his students. He looks for ways to engage students with the work they read as well as to inspire them as young writers.  Mr. Wommack has helped to lead his department in the right direction to best impact student learning.  He is kind and patient and always has his room open during lunch for students to come in at work or even just "hang out" with friends.  

“Mr. Wommack provides afterschool tutoring and is a district instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI).  As an NCI instructor, he trains educators in the best strategies to use to help students resolve conflict in the earliest stages possible.”
– Andrea Divijak, associate principal


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