K-Staters invest in future and current teachers who make a difference to generations of students.
When the school bell rings at the end of each day, students go home. But teachers continue to work.
Most put in numerous hours beyond the school day, and unfortunately, many go to a second job that’s needed to make ends meet.
Understanding the plight of today’s teachers, Lee and Barb Harris have created a new fellowship program to reward the best and brightest teachers in Kansas. They’ve invested $4.875 million in the College of Education at Kansas State University, the largest gift ever for the college. They’ve created new Today’s Teacher fellowships and increased the amount awarded for their Tomorrow’s Teacher scholarship and the Blatz scholarship.
“Future teachers benefit while completing their undergraduate degrees because of the Tomorrow’s Teacher program. Then, entire communities are impacted by those teachers using their skills within their communities,” said Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education. “The College of Education is humbled by Lee’s and Barb’s belief in our rigorous programs and how they prepare teachers to influence lives within and outside the classroom.”
Investing in future teachers
Lee, a 1975 K-State graduate in economics, and Barb, who studied pre-nursing at K-State, learned how vital it is to have excellent public school teachers when their daughters were young. In 1999, the Harrises started the Tomorrow’s Teacher scholarship, which awarded $2,500 to four incoming freshmen each year. The award is renewable, so at its capacity, there are 16 recipients every year. Each recipient is required to complete 100 hours of community service each year and take a personal financial planning type of class.
With their most recent gift, the Harrises have doubled the Tomorrow’s Teacher scholarship to $5,000 per year. They’ve also increased their other undergraduate teaching scholarship, the Blatz Scholarship, to $3,000 per year.
A scholarship of this size can have an immense impact on a student and their family.
“We’ve heard from some of our recipients and their families that without the scholarship, they would not have been able to attend K-State,” Barb said.
As one of this year’s Tomorrow’s Teacher recipients, Riley Chrisler, freshman in elementary education, said the scholarship helped financially and reaffirmed her decision to become a teacher.
“Receiving the Tomorrow’s Teacher scholarship gave me confidence for what I can accomplish as a teacher,” she said. “Now I look forward with great hope to having my own classroom, where I can help shape the world’s future generations.”
Supporting today’s teachers
The Harrises’ gift creates a new program for existing teachers in Kansas: the Today’s Teacher fellowship.
Today’s Teacher fellows receive $5,000 to use toward an education-related community service project and to supplement their income for all the work they do outside the classroom. For the first year, the program was awarded to past Tomorrow’s Teacher scholarship recipients who work in Kansas. They had to apply, describing the community service project that would be funded with the fellowship stipend. In the future, the fellowship will be open to any teacher in Kansas.
“We’ve thought about creating the Today’s Teacher program for a while now, as a way to keep high quality teachers in Kansas,” Lee said. “We hope corporations, communities or other donors will adopt the program in their community. We’d love to see this expand across the state.”
Katelyn Meiwes, 2015 graduate in agricultural education, is one of the inaugural Today’s Teacher fellows. She works for Humboldt Virtual Education, where students are either high school age or adults. Katelyn’s project promotes early childhood education in a secondary setting, helping her students provide enriching activities for their young children. The award will broaden the early childhood activities available to the students and families their school serves.
“There is often help in getting started as a pre-service/beginning teacher, but it lessens when you get a few years under your belt,” Katelyn said. “I appreciate that Lee and Barb Harris noticed the need for assistance to teachers in the field who go above and beyond their regular workday expanding on their ideas to better their schools and communities.”
Victoria Lynch, 2005 graduate in secondary education and leadership studies, is using her stipend to design a reading program that is accessible to all students, represents students of diverse backgrounds, and includes community members.
“When I read about the award, I was so excited for what it could mean to many Kansas teachers!” exclaimed Victoria. “I know plenty of educators who work extra jobs to make ends meet, and this was a fantastic way for the Harris family to recognize those who go above and beyond.”
Find out how to support the College of Education here.
Much of the Harrisses’ gift was through an estate plan. Learn more about planned giving here.