CONTACT:  Michele Clark
Communications Coordinator

Vol. 45, No. 97
Oct. 26, 2011

Teacher of the Year, Finalists to Be Honored Tonight

Missouri’s 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year, Kristen Merrell, from the Lee’s Summit School District, will be honored by state education officials this evening in Jefferson City. The five state finalists in this year’s program also will be recognized.

The recognition banquet begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, 415 W. McCarty Street.  A reception for the six honorees, their families and other guests begins at 5:30 p.m. The reception is sponsored by Missouri’s professional teacher organizations.

Awards will be presented by Peter F. Herschend, Branson, president of the State Board of Education; and Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro.

Merrell has taught third grade at Lee’s Summit Elementary School since 2004, but has been teaching for 12 years. Merrell received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a master’s degree in teaching from Webster University. She is currently working on an education specialist degree in school administration at the University of Central Missouri.

"Kristen exemplifies the superior teacher - caring, compassionate, knowledgeable, and skillful - what is needed in every classroom in Missouri," said Dr. Karla Eslinger, assistant commissioner in the Office of Educator Quality at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Highly effective and committed teachers are a large piece of Missouri's plan to become one of the top 10 educational states by the year 2020."

Merrell was selected in August to represent Missouri in the annual National Teacher of the Year Program. She was chosen from a field of six finalists following personal interviews that were conducted by a 12-member selection committee.

The five state finalists are:

    • Eric Cochran, social studies teacher, Lindbergh High School, Lindbergh Schools
    • Jeni DeFeo, sixth-grade social studies teacher, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Jefferson City School District
    • Gina Johnson, seventh-grade science teacher, Raymore-Peculiar East Middle School, Raymore-Peculiar School District
    • Vicki Nelson, special education teacher, Litzsinger School, Special School District of St. Louis County
    • Maria Stobbe, seventh-grade communication arts teacher, North Kirkwood Middle School, Kirkwood School District

The Missouri Teacher of the Year program is conducted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Major support for the program is provided by the Boeing Company of St. Louis.