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KU seniors honor high school teachers with 2019 Wolfe Family Teaching Awards

Friday, May 03, 2019

LAWRENCE — Three outstanding high school teachers will be recognized with 2019 Wolfe Family Teaching Awards during the University of Kansas Commencement weekend. Several years after having set foot in the teachers’ classrooms, students say the influence of these educators is not forgotten.  

“Great teachers impact people’s lives,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education. “This year’s winners of the Wolfe Teaching Award embody just that — incredible teachers who have had a significant impact on the lives of KU students.”

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 2019 award recipients:

  • Stanley Bergkamp, Maize High School, Maize
  • Stacie Borjon, Shawnee Heights High School, Tecumseh
  • Stephen Smith, Marmaton Valley High School, Moran

Bergkamp was nominated by Elizabeth (Ellie) Hardesty, a senior in exercise science with a minor in applied behavioral science at KU. Hardesty had Bergkamp as a high school teacher for two years. In her nomination, she specifically writes:

“His teaching expands far past the classroom… He inspires me to learn and grow every day, even four years later. I could not name a more caring, supportive and inspiring teacher throughout the entirety of my education. Every student who walks in his door is touched by one of the most profound educators in the modern area and [is] lucky to have the ability to learn from him.”

Borjon was nominated by Tracey Funk, a senior in biology at KU. In addition to having Borjon as a biology teacher, Funk also worked with Borjon through service on the student council and National Honor Society. In her nomination, she writes:

“Mrs. Borjon’s classes fostered a love of biology that I am still pursuing today. Not only were the classes memorable, but Mrs. Borjon was able to seamlessly adapt lessons for different students – challenging high-achieving students, providing alternate instruction [for] ELL students, etc.”

Smith was nominated by Emily Boyd, a senior in chemistry at KU. Boyd describes the level of attention and demand required to succeed in class during high school and how Smith supported her and her fellow students. She writes:

“He volunteered his own time to come in early every morning and stay late every afternoon to guide us through the problems that we didn’t understand… Mr. Smith cared more than any other teacher I’ve encountered… More generally, his emphasis on holistic, bottom-up understanding of concepts has fundamentally guided my approach to science.”

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 KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Education.

The recipients will be honored during Commencement weekend at the KU 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 (1966) and juris doctor (1969), and Cheryl Wolfe, Spanish education (1969), 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 & exercise 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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