Sara Doerhoefer has been nominated for the Horizon Award

Math teacher Sara Doerhoefer has been named the BVNW nominee for the Horizon Award. This award is for first year teachers in the state of Kansas.

Emma Bruce and Eden Kurr

Teaching is a career math teacher Sara Doerhoefer said she has wanted to pursue from early on. She is now in her second year of teaching and has practiced in the field to the extent of being nominated for the Horizon Award. An administrative team at school elected her and her nomination was announced on Sept. 12. Principal Amy Murphy, a member of the team, said the award is only given to teachers after completing their first year in the field.

“The Horizon Award was developed in combination between the Kansas Department of Education and KEEN, which is Kansas Exemplary Education Network,” Murphy said. “Way back, there used to be an award called the Sally Mae Award and the Sally Mae award recognized first year teachers. Well, then the Sally Mae Award went away probably early 2000s, and so the group felt like there needed to be a way to recognize teachers who are coming into education to let them know they are doing an exceptional job.”

Murphy said there are up to 32 teachers from across the state who can win the award.

“Every school district can nominate one elementary first year teacher and one secondary first year teacher, first year teacher meaning they have to have completed their first year teaching and they’re really in their second year of teaching,” Murphy said.

There must be an essay written from the teacher nominated and the school’s principal. After that, the school board and KEEN will examine the submitted material.

“Both the nominee and the principal write an essay in response to a question,” Doerhoefer said. “I submitted that earlier this week. From here on out, Blue Valley will select one nominee from the secondary level and the elementary level. Each district has one nominee, and then the state will select a total of sixteen educators.”

Doerhoefer said she heard about the award when she first came to Kansas, but did not know much about the process. She said she was shocked when Murphy told her she had been nominated for the award.

“It’s humbling because I know what amazing people I work with here, what other amazing educators and young educators we have in the building, and to be chosen as a building nominee is really just a shock,” Doerhoefer said. “I’m humbled by it.”

Murphy said Doerhoefer was chosen as the nominee because she worked in the classroom in a more advanced manner than most first year teachers. She said Doerhoefer did not need help with things they expect first year teachers to need assistance in. She also said her work on formative and summative assessments was impressive and made her a primary nominee.

“We do walkthroughs in class and formal observations and we were just impressed with where she was as a first year teacher,” Murphy said. “A lot of times there’s some kind of basic stuff you deal with as a first year teacher like helping them with lesson placing, and classroom management and those kind of things. She had that so under control… Anytime we were in her class, kids were actively engaged and it was bell to bell, she maximized the amount of time. I don’t think the average person would have walked in there and thought [it] was the room of a first year teacher, just because of the way she ran her classroom. That made her exceptional.”

Doerhoefer said that although she does not know if the award will change her career, it reaffirms what she does in her career.

“ I work very hard at what I do and having someone recognize you and say that you are doing things correctly, that you’re working really hard, and you’re young, and you’re new at this and there’s a lot going on, but we’re recognizing you for doing exemplary work – that just reaffirms what I do in the classroom and continues to motivate me to try new things,” Doerhoefer said. “That’s something that’s hard to do as a young teacher, try new things, and someone telling you that it’s okay to try new things really reaffirms your ability to keep doing what’s best.”