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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy Stephanie Merkling, SACS Teacher of the Year, stands with students from one of her classes at Homestead High School.

  • Courtesy Northwest Allen County Schools has four 2018 Teacher of the Year Award recipients, from left, Renee Sigmon, Josh Clinkenbeard, Nicole Kirk and Karin Huttsell.

  • Gillie

  • Augustine

Sunday, June 24, 2018 1:00 am

Local districts honor top teachers

Journal Gazette

Allen County school districts typically recognize their top educators with Teacher of the Year awards. 

For 2018, here's a look at who was honored:

Fort Wayne Community Schools

Karen Gillie, a graphic-design instructor at FWCS' Career Academy at Anthis, said she was shocked by the Teacher of the Year honor.

“Every day, we need to make sure that our students understand that what they are learning in the classroom is connected to what they will do in their careers,” FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson said in May when the award was announced. “While Karen has a natural ability to make those connections, she also goes out of her way to ensure students have real-world experiences by working with real businesses in the community. Those connections not only provide hands-on learning; they open doors for students entering the workforce before and after graduation.”

Gillie, who has been teaching for 25 years, started as a night-school instructor.

Southwest Allen County Schools

Stephanie Merkling, an AP and environmental science teacher at Homestead High School, strives to incorporate the real world into the classroom. 

At Homestead, she is also known as “Miss Frizzle” because her wardrobe and accessories often fit topics covered in class.

The popularity of environmental science at Homestead has grown to include six sections next semester.

“My students inspire me,” Merkling said in May. “From the discussions we have about something they saw the night before, or the emails they send with links to articles or news stories that have to do with our content, they bring me such joy and inspiration knowing they are thinking about my class outside of school.”

Northwest Allen County Schools

In early June, NACS announced four recipients for the Teacher of the Year Award.

They are Karin Huttsell, first grade, Eel River Elementary School; Nicole Kirk, third grade, Arcola Elementary School; Josh Clinkenbeard, eighth-grade science, Carroll Middle School; and Renee Sigmon, grades 10-12, culinary arts, Carroll High School.

“We are honored to recognize members of our teaching staff who demonstrate the finest qualities of an outstanding teacher/counselor,” Chris Himsel, NACS' superintendent, said in a statement.

One high school teacher, one middle school teacher, and two elementary school teachers are chosen each year by a small committee at the district level.

Any NACS teacher or counselor may be nominated for this recognition; however, only those teachers or counselors earning an evaluation rating of “mentor” or “highly effective” are considered as finalists.

Huttsell retired this year after 41 years of teaching in the district. Stephanie Kelly, a parent who submitted a nomination for Huttsell, shared how her son blossomed as a student in Huttsell's class and said she will be missed.

East Allen County Schools

Cedarville Elementary School teacher Karen Augustine, who has been with East Allen 29 years, was named Teacher of the Year.

Augustine teaches first grade, but she has also taught third grade.

Her special memories include helping a few third-graders who started the school year reading at a kindergarten level build their reading comprehension, accuracy, fluency and vocabulary to the third-grade reading level.

“Witnessing this kind of academic growth in a child is priceless, to say the least,” Augustine said in a statement.

– From Journal Gazette archives and school district news releases