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Superintendent Dr. Mark Penny presents Sara Creech with the District’s Teacher of the Year award for 2019. Photo courtesy of Lincoln County Schools

Lincoln County R-III School District’s Superintendent, Dr. Mark Penny, addressed nearly 900 employees at the Hungate Preforming Arts Center in the morning of Aug. 6. He welcomed them back, celebrated last year’s accomplishments and set the stage for the coming school year. A few highlights from the event included a performance by the Bel Canto Choir from Boone Elementary; presentations from local mental health providers funded by the Lincoln County Resource Board; Shelly Parks, Missouri 2019 Teacher of the Year (and Buchanan High School alumna) as the keynote speaker and employee recognition awards. During the event, three recognition awards were bestowed on employees: Teacher of the Year, Star Employee and Shoot for the Moon (awarded to educators for exceptional curricular programing).

The first award of the morning was received by Sara Creech, Boone Elementary fourth grade teacher. Creech was named the 2019 Lincoln County R-III Teacher of the Year at the District’s Aug. 6 Welcome Back event. Sara Creech was one of twenty-six nominees in the running.

The Teacher of the Year program was initiated in 2017 by Buchanan High School alumnus Carter Creech, currently of Dallas, Texas. Through the support of Carter Creech, the top three finalists receive a $1,000 award for personal use and the winner receives a $5,000 award, half for personal use and half for use towards their classroom or curricular area of choice. Carter Creech has generously funded the program through 2036.

Sara Creech is an alumna of Buchanan High School and is entering her twenty-first year of service in education. As part of the application process, Sara Creech was asked, “How do you answer the question, ‘I’m thinking of becoming a teacher, what is it like?’” Sara Creech responded, “Teaching is a calling, not just a career choice. You don’t go into teaching expecting to become wealthy and live in a mansion. You go into teaching expecting to change lives and make a difference. What you get out of it is love – lots and lots of love!” 

This year’s three finalists, also recognized at the Welcome Back Event, are Eric Blankenship, Troy Buchanan High School band teacher; Melissa Surber, Troy Buchanan High Scool English language arts teacher; and Samantha Juergensmeyer, Hawk Point Elementary first grade teacher. 

Also recognized at the event were the thirty classified employees nominated for the Star Employee award, the second award presented. 

The recipient of this year’s Star award was Shelly Hanebrink, Cuivre Park Elementary custodian. Hanebrink was recognized for her hard work and dedication to the district, her school and the students of Cuivre Park Elementary.

The final award of the morning was the Shoot for the Moon award. This is given to educators that provide curricular programming that exemplifies the mission of the district, trusting relationships and superior instruction, going above and beyond to provide an educational experience for students that will help to propel them further into their studies and beyond. This year’s Shoot for the Moon was awarded to the Troy Buchanan High School vocal and instrumental music programs for their collaboration on the Night at the Hungate dedication event. The educators that support these programs are Eric Blankenship, Christopher Barchesky, Andrew Drinkall and Guy Grimstead. 

Following the Welcome Back event on Tuesday, employees throughout the district spent the week preparing their buildings and classrooms for students, welcoming families for open houses and orientations, completing annual training, and participating in in-service meetings. The thirteen campuses in the Lincoln County R-III School District will welcome over 6,500 students on Tuesday, Aug. 13.


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