WICHITA — Melissa Haney, a science teacher at Explorer Elementary School, Goddard Unified School District 265, and Joanna Farmer, an agriculture teacher at Southeast High School, Wichita USD 259, were named Region 4 finalists for the 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year award during an awards ceremony Saturday, March 25, in Wichita.

This award recognizes excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state. The Kansas Teacher of the Year Region 4 Awards Banquet took place at the Wichita Marriott Hotel, 9100 Corporate Hills Drive.

As finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction, Haney and Farmer 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.

Haney and Farmer were among six Teacher of the Year semifinalists from Region 4, which covers the fourth U.S. congressional district.

Other semifinalists were Brooke McGown, a kindergarten teacher at Circle Benton Elementary School, Circle USD 375; Elizabeth Wall, a first-grade teacher at Irving Elementary School, Winfield USD 465; Sarah Koehn, a theater and speech teacher at Andover High School, Andover USD 385; and Lauren Van Allen, an agriculture teacher at Oxford Junior-Senior High School, Oxford USD 358.

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.