Bonnie Austin began her teaching career in Dodge City in 1985 as a junior high math teacher. Since then, she has served as an Elementary Administrative Intern, Dodge City High School math teacher, principal at Sunnyside Elementary School, and instructional coach. Now, Austin is serving as USD 443’s nominee for Kansas Master Teacher of the Year.
by Yvonda Acker USD 443 Bonnie Austin began her teaching career in Dodge City in 1985 as a junior high math teacher. Since then, she has served as an Elementary Administrative Intern, Dodge City High School math teacher, principal at Sunnyside Elementary School, and instructional coach. Now, Austin is serving as USD 443’s nominee for Kansas Master Teacher of the Year. “I have been very humbled by the support that I am receiving from colleagues, former colleagues, students, families and community members,” she said of the nomination. After being notified her name was submitted by a colleague for consideration, she was asked to submit additional information about her experience and teaching philosophy. When she was selected by the USD 443 committee, DCHS Principal Jacque Feist personally delivered the news to Austin. “That was very meaningful to me because we have worked [together] very diligently the past few years as a team and I respect her leadership so much,” Austin said. Austin must now build a professional portfolio for the Master Teacher Selection committee that includes biographical data, educational philosophy, job performance information, community service and professional organization involvement, and letters of support from former students, colleagues and community members. It must be submitted prior to Feb. 3, 2014. “I truly believe education opens up doors for children to a future they may have never imagined,” she said. “I have always been a cheerleader for the underdog; so some of my favorite students and classes have been those that had experienced ‘mathematical failure’ in the past. My goal for these students is to stimulate their ability to think mathematically and problem solve. I want them to build their confidence as a learner, as well as a confidence in themselves in general.” Austin said it’s difficult to describe how it feels to be nominated. “When Jacque [Feist] told me about the nomination, she said, ‘you really don’t understand what this means, yet. You will not understand the significance of this until later,’” Austin said. “It is an honor to be recognized for my work but it really is even more about being honored for ‘who I am’ and being honored for what ‘being a teacher’ is really all about!” And for Austin, that includes building a passion for learning and discovering. “One of the most rewarding comments I receive from students is, ‘math is starting to make sense!’ Being in the profession as long as I have, I have had the opportunity to see even some of my youngest students grow into adulthood,” she said. “It fills my heart with joy to run into them and have them say, ‘Miss, you have made a difference!’ There are not many occupations that offer that reward!” Austin’s husband, Bruce, is the Floral Design teacher at DCHS. They have three sons: twins Joshua and Caleb, who graduated from DCHS in 2013, and Jonathan, an 8th grader at Comanche Middle School. Emporia State University established the Kansas Master Teacher awards in 1953. The awards are presented annually to teachers who have served the profession long and well and who also typify the good qualities of earnest and conscientious teachers. For USD 443, Austin exemplifies that type of teacher. “I am a teacher, I will always be a teacher, and I’m very proud to be a teacher,” Austin said.