TOPEKA — Fonda Telthorst, a music teacher at Piper Prairie Elementary School, Piper Unified School District 203, and Cherryl Delacruz, a mathematics teacher at Highland Park High School, Topeka USD 501, were named Region 2 finalists for the 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year award during a ceremony Sunday, March 26, in Topeka.

This award recognizes excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state. The Kansas Teacher of the Year Region 2 Awards Banquet took place at the Townsite Tower, 534 S. Kansas Ave., in Topeka.

As finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction, Telthorst and Delacruz each will receive a $2,000 cash award from Security Benefit, the major corporate partner for the Kansas Teacher of the Year program. In addition, they are each now eligible to be named Kansas Teacher of the Year, which will be announced during a ceremony Saturday, Sept. 23, in Wichita.

Telthorst and Delacruz were among six Teacher of the Year semifinalists from Region 2, which covers the second U.S. congressional district.

Other semifinalists were Olga McAlpine, a fourth-grade teacher at Jackson Heights Elementary School, North Jackson Heights USD 335; Elizabeth Olorunfemi, a first-grade teacher at Overbrook Attendance Center, Santa Fe Trail USD 434; Jessica Greenfield, a chemistry and physics teacher at Humboldt High School, Humboldt USD 258; and Robert Jackson, a science teacher at Seaman Middle School, Seaman USD 345.

Each of the semifinalists will receive a red marble apple with a wooden base, compliments of The Master Teacher in Manhattan.

This year, 124 educators across the state were nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction.

Nominations are made in each of the four regions in the state. The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), sponsor of the Kansas Teacher of the Year program, appoints regional selection panels comprised of teachers, education administrators and higher education representatives to select semifinalists and finalists from each region.

Each panel selects six semifinalists – three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers. From those semifinalists, the panel in each region then selects one elementary finalist and one secondary finalist. The Kansas Teacher of the Year is selected from among the state’s eight regional finalists.

The mission of the Kansas Teacher of the Year program is to build and utilize a network of exemplary teachers who are leaders in the improvement of schools, student performance and the teaching profession.

The Kansas Teacher of the Year team, comprised of the Teacher of the Year and state finalists, serves as an ambassador for education in Kansas, making public appearances across the state promoting education and the teaching profession.

The individual selected as the Kansas Teacher of the Year is eligible for national distinction as National Teacher of the Year.

The National Teacher of the Year program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with the Voya Foundation.