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KU seniors honor high school teachers with Wolfe Family Teaching Awards

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

LAWRENCE — Even though it’s been several years since University of Kansas seniors have set foot in high school teachers’ classrooms, the influence of many of those educators is not forgotten. As their former students celebrate the milestone of graduation, three outstanding high school teachers will be recognized with the 2016 Wolfe Family Teaching Award during KU’s Commencement weekend.

“This is a special award because it offers students an opportunity to recognize the educators who touched their lives,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education. “Much of school reform today focuses narrowly on improving students’ standardized test scores, but when students identify lifelong impact, that may be the greatest measure of a teacher’s true worth. There are few better rewards for a teacher than seeing students succeed after they leave their classroom.”

Nominations are submitted by KU seniors. Students from any major can nominate their former teachers, and the winners can be high school teachers from anywhere in the world. The 2016 award recipients:

  • Cynthia Burgett, Washburn Rural High School
  • William (Bill) Patterson, Lawrence High School
  • Adam Robb, Moundridge High School

Burgett was nominated by Addison Schile, a senior in chemical engineering with a minor in mathematics. Schile explains that Burgett has always been willing to talk with her and advise her about her path in life. In her nomination, she writes:

“Words cannot describe the kind of influence she has had on me, as well as many students before and after my time. [Burgett] has been, for a majority of her career, lauded as one of the best high school debate coaches in the state of Kansas. This teacher helped me and countless [other] students excel in academics, debate and life.”

Patterson earned his master’s degree in 2007 from the KU School of Education, and he was nominated by Emily Roberts, a senior in English and history of art. Roberts took multiple English classes with Patterson in high school, and in her nomination, she writes:

“In a world of students that are increasingly drawn to science and technology, Mr. Patterson showed me and the rest of my classmates the importance of balancing science with the humanities. He pushed us to express our thoughts, arguments and ideas clearly, concisely, and more importantly, uniquely.”

Robb was nominated by Tiffany Fisher, a senior in chemical engineering. In her nomination, Fisher indicates that it was in Robb’s classes that her inspiration to pursue a career in math and science ignited. She writes:

“Mr. Robb imparts to every student that education is more than just learning the materials. He emphasizes that we should utilize and apply information to our world around us to improve and benefit people and communities. [His] teaching career has created a positive impact on his students, surrounding communities and the world.”

Recipients each receive a cash award of $3,000, and their respective high schools each receive $1,000. The award winners were selected from a large pool of outstanding nominees by a committee of faculty, administrators and students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Education.

The recipients will be honored during Commencement weekend at the School of Education convocation ceremony and a dinner held in their honor.

The Wolfe Family Teaching Award was created in 2006 with a $250,000 gift from R. Dean Wolfe, business administration ’66 and juris doctorate ’69, and Cheryl L. Wolfe, Spanish education ’69, Clayton, Missouri, through the Wolfe Family Foundation. The award fund is managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

The KU School of Education is a nationally ranked school preparing educators and health, sport and exercise science professionals as leaders. 


10th among public universities for its master’s and doctoral programs
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#1 public program in nation for special education
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Assists public schools and other partners in all 105 Kansas counties
$938,377 in scholarship funds awarded to 420+ students
Research expenditures of $36,804,773 for 2011-12
Research from KU’s largest grant, the $24.5 million SWIFT project, assists educators, children, and families across the United States
The award-winning special education faculty published 140 refereed articles, 11 books, and 60 chapters in 2015-16
Students with intellectual disabilities are participating in KU undergraduate programs through a grant-funded KU special education program
Researchers on a $3.5 million grant are collecting data on an innovative reading program designed to teach reading to students with the most significant disabilities in seven Kansas school districts
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
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