An early announcement and a surprise donation marked this year's announcement of Joplin teacher honorees by a business organization.
Four Joplin educators were announced Monday as winners of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce's 2021 Golden Apple Awards program, which recognizes excellence in the teaching profession.
The award winners are:
• Stephanie Reither, of Cecil Floyd Elementary School.
• Kathy Nicodemus, of Irving Elementary School.
• Cheryl Sieber, of North Middle School.
• Syeda Greenlee, of Joplin High School.
Presented by sponsors Liberty Utilities and Missouri Southern State University, the chamber marked its 36th set of award winners. This year, 80 nominations were made by students, parents and co-workers, said Valerie Searcy, co-organizer of the chamber's program.
Teachers were recognized for a particularly challenging year in the face of COVID-19.
"Teaching is a tough job anyway in the best of situations," said Susan Craig, department chair of MSSU's teacher education program. "It has been more difficult this year. Each of you is a true credit to your profession."
Ordinarily presented during the chamber's annual banquet, organizers wanted to announce them earlier this year in order to make the announcement during the current school year, Searcy said. The chamber's annual banquet this year has been set for September.
Another surprise was made possible by the family of a former teacher and program finalist. The family of Kathleen Keisner collected enough donations in her memory to present each finalist with a $140 gift card. Keisner, who died in January at 87, taught at Irving Elementary for 25 years.
"We received notification from the Keisner family that they wanted to honor the memory of their mother by contributing to the awards," said Stephanie McGrew, events coordinator for the chamber. "This program was near and dear to their mother."
Finalists for the awards were Erica Doennig and Sara Meyer, of Irving Elementary School; Erica DuRossette and Chelsea Meyer, of Royal Heights Elementary School; Miranda Hembree, of the Joplin School District gifted program; Darren Morgan, of South Middle School; Amanda Powell, of East Middle School; Cara Clark and LaHeather Fisher, of Joplin High School; and Victoria Baker, Paula Bohm and Gelmis Cole, of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School.