2008-2009 KPBSD BP Teachers of Excellence

bp teachers of excellence  
(From left) KPBSD Superintendent Dr. Donna Peterson congratulates the 2008-2009 BP Teachers of Excellence, Jamie Leman, Ken Felchle, Jason Daniels, Carole Demers and Rosemary Bird.  

The BP Teachers of Excellence ceremony for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District this year had the makings of a catch 22. The recipient of the Teacher of the Year award almost didn't attend, due to the dedication to students that got him nominated for the award in the first place.

Jason Daniels, a fourth-grade teacher at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, was nominated as a teacher of excellence in the educator recognition program BP sponsors each year. But he wasn't planning on going to the dinner and ceremony May 14, where the teachers of excellence are recognized and the teacher of the year is announced, because it was smack in the middle of his school's three-day outdoor education program.

He respectfully declined the invitation, since he didn't want to leave the kids — 70 fourth-graders at Solid Rock Bible Camp, learning about boating safety, water quality testing, mushing, first aid and outdoor skills.

His principal, Melissa Linton, was strongly encouraged to make absolutely sure Daniels would be there. He was, leaving camp with enough time to clean up and get to the ceremony. Even after the extra encouragement to attend, he said he was surprised when his name was announced as the teacher of the year.

"I'm totally speechless," Daniels said. "I know the other teachers here, and they are so qualified."

Rosemary Bird, music, art and home economics teacher at Kenai Middle School; Carole Demers, a fourth-grade teacher at West Homer Elementary School; Jamie Leman, a pupil services teacher at Ninilchik School; and Ken Felchle, a seventh-grade teacher at Kenai Middle School; were the other BP Teachers of Excellence for the 2008-2009 school year in KPBSD.

BP Alaska Vice President and Projects Director Gary Boubel said this is the program's 14th year, and there were more than 2,000 teacher nominees in the peninsula, Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna school districts. The program's 448th teacher of excellence was named this year.

"I think that's a tribute and a recognition of the quality of teachers we have in our schools," Boubel said. "…You don't just teach arithmetic and English and all that, you teach children. The impact you have on people is something you don't always know what it's going to be, but it's there."

Daniels knows the impact of at least two teachers in his life – his parents. Greg Daniels was a principal at Redoubt Elementary School in Soldotna, and Jan Daniels taught at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai.

"So I have grown up in the footsteps of teachers," Daniels said. "I saw that teachers were able to touch lives. I saw that teachers can live a better life. It looked like a fun job."

It still is, Daniels said, 11 years later, all of which have been spent at K-Beach Elementary.

"It seems to get better every year. Part of it is because I love the new kids. Each generation coming in every year is different and you get to know the personalities of the classes. I love that. Otherwise, it would get stagnant," he said.

Daniels was specifically recognized for his use of technology in the classroom and in seeking out expanded educational opportunities for his students, like bringing Alaska astronaut Bill Oefelein in to speak with students. One of the benefits of teaching the same grade level for consecutive years is you get a sense of what needs to be taught and learned, then you can focus on going beyond the basics, he said.

Daniels said he was expecting to get "tons of hugs, that's for sure," when his students found out about the award. For him, that's the best part of receiving it.

"The letter of recognition I got here tonight was great, but the letters of recognition I will get from the kids at school are going to mean a lot more," he said.

"I'm not going to drive back to camp. I'm going to float back."