Sunnyside Elementary First Grade Teacher Jane Culver teaches because she, very simply, loves children.

She is USD 443’s elementary education nominee for Kansas Teacher of the Year.

"Teaching has allowed me to spend time doing something I am passionate about and it’s become a very important part of my life," she said. "My true strength comes from learning right along with my students, about technology, culture, second language acquisition, family strengths and weaknesses, special needs children, patience and perseverance."

Culver has worked in Dodge City for 28 years, spending the first 2 years of her career in Bucklin before joining USD 443. She has taught everything between Pre-K and fourth grade, but most of her career has been in kindergarten and first grade.

Sunnyside Principal John Montford said Culver is instrumental in driving positive changes in the school after being designated a Focus School in the 2011-12 school year.

"She probably could have retired years ago; but instead of coasting in the closing years of her career, she has chosen to be a teacher-leader, an innovator," Montford said. "She seeks professional development in and out of the district to find strategies that are suitable to the students she serves.

"Recently she has introduced ‘Seesaw,’ an interactive parent communication application. She has also brought in resources and professional development to help us understand the challenges that are presented as we educate students who are living in poverty."

Culver was notified of the nomination at a district in-service by Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Tami Knedler.

"It’s a true honor and I am so excited to share with and learn from other Kansas teachers, too," she said. "I am very humbled by this experience as there are many Dodge City teachers who work very hard and deserve to be recognized for their dedication to the students of USD 443.

"I am very proud to be working alongside these fellow teachers and administrators."

Culver said that with larger class sizes, it’s become more and more challenging to find time to differentiate for all students.

"I find it difficult to be able to work with individual students when the number of students in the classroom keeps increasing," she said. "There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day."

As a teacher, Culver has been fortunate to build lasting relationships with students and their families.

"I experience that look of success or accomplishment on the faces of students on a daily basis, which has encouraged me to grow as a person and teacher," she said.

Culver is a product of the Dodge City Public Schools system.

She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from St. Mary of the Plains and continued on to Fort Hays State University for an ESL (English as a Second Language) endorsement.

Culver is married with two grown children and six grandchildren. Her family was present when her nomination was announced.

"I am very honored and humbled to represent the Dodge City School system," she said. "Teaching is my passion and has totally shaped my life. I love giving to my community and teaching has allowed me that opportunity."

Culver would like to thank all of her students from the past 30 years.

"You have shown me the real reasons for teaching," she said. "Thank you, also, to all of my administrators and fellow teachers who have created such a positive working environment."