Topeka, KS— Carly Torres, a fifth-grade teacher at Wiley Elementary School, Hutchinson Unified School District 308, and Erica Huggard, a biology, anatomy and physiology teacher at Emporia High School, Emporia USD 253, were named Region 1 finalists for the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year award during a virtual ceremony Saturday, March 26.


This award recognizes excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state.


As finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction, Torres and Huggard 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. 24, in Wichita.


Torres and Huggard were among six Teacher of the Year semifinalists from Region 1, which covers the first U.S. congressional district.


Other semifinalists were Jennifer Fallin, a fifth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School, Geary County USD 475; Shannon Vieyra, a third-grade teacher at Plum Creek Elementary School, Buhler USD 313; Melanie Hammond, an 11th-grade science teacher at Salina High School South, Salina USD 305; and Rhyanna Reilly, an English language arts teacher at Hutchinson High School, Hutchinson USD 308.


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


This year, 109 educators across the state were nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction.


Nominations are made in each of 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.