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Top Ten Educators of the Year 2017

In 2011, NSHSS established the Claes Nobel Educator of the Year Award to celebrate the accomplishments of top-performing NSHSS Educators of Distinction. Claes Nobel Educators of Distinction are invited to apply for the Educator of the Year Award every year, which is presented at the NSHSS annual holiday member event in Atlanta, Georgia. NSHSS Educators of Distinction are invited to apply for the award each year.

“The Claes Nobel Educator of the Year program embraces my family’s tradition of recognizing world class minds and supports the vision of NSHSS to help students build on academic success and grow the skills and desire to have a positive impact in the global community.”

–Claes Nobel, NSHSS Co-founder and senior member of the family that established the Nobel Prizes

Please join us in recognizing this year’s Top Ten Educators of the Year below!

2017 Educator of the Year

Joyce Kim, English Teacher
Prospect High School, Mount Prospect, IL

As a high school student, Mrs. Kim was “freed to think. To question. To have [her] own thoughts.” Mrs. Kim now aims to inspire “student exploration, discovery, and personal growth.” Her goal is to aid students in evaluating their own opinions and the opinions of others. Mrs. Kim takes pride in assisting students in cultivating self-expression and critical thinking.

2017 Top Ten Educators of the Year

Thelvie Cullins, Jr., AP Calculus Teacher
Talented and Gifted Magnet High School, Dallas, TX

Mr. Cullins believes that being an educator is a “special calling.” He writes that educators are obligated to “prepare young people to become well-adjusted, responsible citizens of a connected world, and to enhance their leadership skills, encourage good moral values and teach them to become critical thinkers and leaders.” Mr. Cullins encourages students to broaden their thinking and to question their own perspectives as well as those of others.

Kelly Eddy, AP U.S. History Teacher
Churchill High School, Livonia, MI

Though the AP U.S. History exam has a nationwide pass rate of 50%, Ms. Eddy’s students earn an 80% or higher pass rate each year. Ms. Eddy enjoys attending conferences and classes that enable her to update her curriculum. She strives to both motivate her students academically, while also providing “guidance, support, and empathy.”

Bob Fenster, Social Studies Teacher
Hillsborough High School, Hillsborough, NJ

Mr. Fenster’s teaching philosophy is that “students learn best by doing, while also benefitting by varied instructions and opportunities to demonstrate proficiency and mastery.” Mr. Fenster has employed game-like learning, along with student research assignments, and simulations as innovative instructional techniques. He considers himself a lifelong learner and constantly invests in improving his student’s educational experience.

McKenzie Lueders, Chemistry Teacher
Dodge City High School, Dodge City, KS

Instead of focusing on a numerical grade, Mrs. Lueders centers her exams on the application of concepts. She explains, “Exam grades are not permanent; they are fluid and can change based on true proof of master at any point. On each exam, students are allowed to choose the level of difficulty in which they want to prove mastery.” Mrs. Lueders’ educational technique and unique grading process has allowed her students to replace the “fear of failure” with “the freedom to learn.”

Jo-Ann McCauley, AP French Language and Culture; Department Chair
Wesleyan School, Norcross, GA

Mrs. McCauley explains that, “To educate means to teach students to question why they think as they do.” She continues, “Education is a process through which we formulate the definition of who we are in this world.” Mrs. McCauley hopes to help her students develop into global citizens who are sensitive to the “cultures, languages, and ideologies” of others.

Rebecca Nelson, English Teacher
Oswego East High School, Oswego, IL

Mrs. Nelson’s teaching philosophy is that “each student can be engaged to learn when provided a variety of experiential learning, and [her] goal is to allow students to find their intrinsic motivation to learn.” She equates her classroom to a theater and explains that, “while the playbill changes daily, [her] goal is to provide an educational experience that students are reflecting on and returning to [her] ‘stage door’ to interest and question [her].”

Tad Sours, AP History Teacher
Haas Hall Academy – Fayetteville, Fayetteville, AR

Mr. Sours has taught at Hass Hall Academy, the number one public school in Arkansas and one of the top 20 high schools nationwide, for the past 8 years. He is a certified AP Human Geography, AP World History, and AP European History educator. Mr. Sours’ goal is to teach students “how to think, how to learn, and how to filter the information that they are given, whether in the classroom, or in the real world.”

Cate Praggastis, AVID Program Coordinator
East High School, Salt Lake City, UT

Mrs. Praggastis makes a concerted effort to assist students seeking to become first-generation college scholars. She works with community partners to acquire funding for college applications and helps students with FAFSA submissions and scholarship searches. Mrs. Praggastis’s instruction expands beyond the classroom as she teaches students about “self-advocacy, manners, expectations in the workplace, finance, global issues, and resumes.” She takes pride in helping students understand their role in realizing their potential.

Christopher Wendelin, AP English Teacher
Amos Alonzo Stagg High School, Palos Hills, IL

Mr. Wendelin seeks to provide education that is “long-term and nonlinear.” He explains, “Students and teachers should see themselves and each other as works in progress, using every setback, success, and query as a stepping stone to improvement and believing that everyone can grow and learn with hard work and grit.” Mr. Wendelin’s ultimate goal is “to create a community of learners that prioritizes improvement, embraces challenges and failure, and empowers students to be leaders in their own education.”