Briefly Mentioned: UMKC Alumna Named 2011-12 Missouri Teacher of the Year

Louis Trigg

Alumna Kristen Merrell was surprised during an assembly on the first day of school at Lee’s Summit Elementary when she was announced as the 2011-12 Missouri Teacher of the Year.

Marking the second time in three years that a teacher from Lee’s Summit R-7 School District has won the award, her selection also becomes the second time it has gone to an alumna. Alumna Susanne Mitko of Lee’s Summit’s Campbell Middle School was Missouri Teacher of the Year in 2009.

Merrell’s award can be evenly credited to the high standards of the R-7 School District and to her teaching skills. For 12 years, she has been with this school district, which boasts seven state finalists for the award since 2002. Last month, it continued its winning streak by earning the top score on the 2010-11 state report card, known as the Annual Performance Report.

Since 2004, she has taught kindergarten, third, fourth, and fifth grades at Lee’s Summit Elementary.

In a generation when many classrooms are too large for one on one relationships with students though, Merrell was praised for her personable approach.

“While making data driven decisions about curriculum is critical to ensuring student progress, so is knowing each of my students and what individual motivational strategies might best combine with the data to propel that student to his or her highest potential,” she said in her application for the award.

Merrell and the six other finalists will be honored at a banquet Oct. 26 in Jefferson City. As the state’s top teacher, she automatically represents Missouri in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

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