April 22, 2024

Newton teachers awarded for their impact and influence on students

NCEF honors winners of Excellence in Education Awards

Lea Kunkel, a kindergarten teacher at Aurora Heights Elementary, on Feb. 9 receives a $500 check for her classroom after earning the Excellence in Education Award from the Newton Community Educational Foundation.

Eight teachers in the Newton Community School District were honored last week for their work in the classrooms and their impact on students.

Members of the Newton Community Educational Foundation (NCEF) surprised those teachers in the middle of class on Feb. 8 and 9 with Excellence in Education Awards, sweet treats for all the kids and a $500 check for educators to spend on their classrooms. The teachers awarded include:

• Lea Kunkel, a kindergarten teacher at Aurora Heights Elementary

• Trey Vanderlaan, a second grade teacher at Emerson Hough Elementary

• Lucas Warner, a special education teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary

• Will Edgar, a vocal music teacher at Berg Middle School

• Donny Fitzgerald, a social studies teacher at Berg Middle School

• James Horn, an industrial technology teacher at Newton High School

• Brian Cleveland, a social studies teacher at Newton High School

• Zac Plank, a math teacher at WEST Academy

To be chosen for an Excellence in Education Award, teachers have to be nominated by their students or parents in the fall and provide a testimonial. When administrators and NCEF board members Abby Lamont and Amy Doerring presented the awards to educators, they shared those testimonials.

“As a first-time elementary school mom in today’s world, to say I was nervous for my child to start kindergarten was an understatement. Ms. Kunkel was a breath of fresh air. My daughter begs to go to school every day. Even when she was sick and had to stay home she was crying asking to go,” said a Cardinal mother.

A student from Mr. Vanderlaan’s classroom at Emerson Hough said, “I want my teacher to win because he is nice. And when I’m talking he stops to listen. He’s the best and he helps me to learn a lot. He is so thankful for us, and we are thankful for him, too. I love him and I am so happy to have him.”

Trey Vanderlaan, a second grade teacher at Emerson Hough Elementary, on Feb. 9 learns he is the recipient of the Newton Community Educational Foundation's Excellence in Education Award.

To see the joy on the faces of teachers and students in their own environment was a great experience for Lamont.

“The kids thrive on seeing their teacher for who they are but also for what they give to them and their kids every single day,” Lamont said. “The kids also love to see their teachers get recognized for what they’ve done, and it’s awesome to have teachers see somebody in their classroom who has nominated them.”

Doerring has distributed awards for NCEF for the past 20 years. She is grateful to be able to join teachers in their classrooms to share what students and parents have to say about them. It also gives her first-hand experience of the impactful connections teachers have with their students in Newton schools.

“You don’t know what’s going on in the schools until you get to be in there,” she said. “And what a gift it is for me to get to see inside of the school and see all the things and the love between the students and the teachers. It’s amazing. It’s seriously the best two days ever!”

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.