Four teachers and their schools are being honored by Boise State University and Alan and Wendy Pesky, founders of the Lee Pesky Learning Center.
The 2014 Pesky Award for Inspirational Teaching was presented Friday during the BSU Winter Commencement ceremony to:
- Holly Kartchner, Blackfoot High School.
- Herby Kojima, Eagle High School.
- Robbie Miller, Camas County High School.
- Andrea Symmonds, Bishop Kelly High School.
Presented in conjunction with BSU’s College of Education, the award recognizes Idaho teachers who have made a major difference in the lives of their former students through their passion and caring teaching practices.
Alan and Wendy Pesky funded the award and made the presentations, along with Rich Osguthorpe, dean of the College of Education. Each teacher receives $2,000 and their schools will receive $500 each.
Boise State’s graduating education students nominated K-12 teachers who had inspired them to become teachers.
Kojima earned his undergraduate degree and his master’s of education in educational leadership from BSU. He originally taught as a long-term substitute debate coach at Idaho Falls High School. He has taught speech and coached debate at Eagle for the past 15 years. He also works as an adjunct professor at BSU, offering Methods of Teaching for Communication.
“I teach and love doing so because I enjoy preparing students to succeed in their personal, professional and community lives,” Kojima said. “I also enjoy providing opportunities to grow student leaders who embrace these qualities and help others master them as well.”
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When he’s not teaching, Kojima enjoys trail running in the Boise Foothills and ultralight backpacking with his wife. He also enjoys DJ mixing, which mashes up diverse genres of music.
Kelly Lester nominated Kojima, who says Lester is “one of the finest student-teachers with whom I have ever worked. Anybody looking for a high school speech teacher?”
Kojima’s advice for those interested in teaching: “Don’t ever stop reflecting on your own practices, be open to new methods of engaging students, and actively search for new concepts to continually improve yourself and the learning in your classroom. When you no longer embrace these habits, it’s time to retire from teaching.”
Symmonds is from California and her first first teaching job was at St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland, Calif.
She took seven years off to raise two children in Boise before joining the staff at Bishop Kelly. She has been there for 25 years.
“I went into teaching because I love the world of ideas and literature and where best to share them, but with young people who keep us looking ahead to the future,” she said. “They have created a community for me to come to every day and many of them have become lifelong friends.”
Stephanie Sheibe nominated Symmonds.
In her spare time, Symmonds tutors immigrant students seeking their GED and she enjoys working in her vegetable garden to supply the local foodbanks. She also loves to travel.
“I would like to tell college graduates to think of their education not as a way to get a rich paycheck but as a way of living a rich life,” she said. “I have two degrees and though I don’t make a lot of money, I have never regretted any class I have ever taken. Ecology taught me the importance of protecting the planet, psychology taught me how to deal with interpersonal relationships and literature gave me the wisdom of humanity collected over the centuries.”
“I really enjoy being around the kids and watching them learn,” he said. “I like to help disadvantaged kids and watch them grow.”
Miller loves to snowboard at Soldier Mountain, about 10 miles from campus. He regularly helps students master his favorite sport. “If I see them struggling, I stop and help them so they have a good time.”
Megan Stamke nominated Miller for this award and she’s interested in becoming a teacher. Miller’s advice for her:
“Take every student with a clean slate, no matter what their background says. Say nice things to them every day and really be concerned about their welfare.”
Kartchner, a graduate of Idaho State University, has taught at Blackfoot for the past 10 years. She earned her master’s degree in the James Madison Fellowship Foundation program, awarded to just one Idaho person a year.
“I teach because I know kids,” she said. “If students are challenged to do hard things, they will often rise to the task. I do not believe this is the ‘slacker generation.’ Our students today volunteer, sacrifice time and self, to change the world. They sincerely believe they can make a difference. That is what I love about teaching. Watching my students graduate from college, clean communities after disasters, vote and volunteer at soup kitchens, I reflect on how I love teaching.”
Kartchner, who was nominated by Megan Dalley, enjoys visiting other countries and studying their cultures and political systems. She loves to listen to audible books, participate in distance bike events, scuba dive and collect seashells.
“My advice to new teachers is know what you teach and teach what you know,” she said. “Many students recognize when their teachers are knowledgeable about their subject matter and have a true passion for the topic. Whatever you teach, you should earnestly believe it is the MOST important subject kids can ever learn.”