It’s rare for a teacher to get called down to the office of Lincoln Elementary School to find the school principal, the director of instruction and the district superintendent all waiting there.
When Aspen Frey – a December 2013 graduate of McPherson College – found that group waiting for her on Jan. 5, she was – understandably – a little apprehensive.
But all were smiling, and then the voice of Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson came through the speakerphone… congratulating her on winning a 2015 Horizon Award.
“I was just so shocked,” Frey said. “I was happy knowing that all my hard work was being noticed. It was such an honor, and I was so humbled to find out that I was one of the winners.”
The annual awards are sponsored by the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association and the Kansas State Department of Education. Each school district in Kansas may nominate one elementary and one secondary teacher for the award, which is for teachers who have just completed their first year as a full-time professional in the classroom.
Out of those potential 586 nominees statewide, just one elementary and one secondary teacher are chosen for the award in each of the state’s four regions, which correspond to the Kansas Congressional districts.
Frey teaches kindergarten and first grade special education students at Lincoln. She said she strives to adapt her lessons to students’ needs and learning styles, stays positive, uses fun and engaging methods to keep students interested, and carefully organizes each day so that students know what to expect.
Her education at McPherson College prepared her well to excel in teaching, she said, giving her constructive criticism and the freedom to explore and be creative. Because the MC program had her observing in schools as soon as her sophomore year, Frey said she received critical real-life experience throughout her college years.
“I was very thankful to be in schools right away and see what the career was all about,” she said. “It definitely prepared me.”
Cody Rierson, principal at Lincoln Elementary and himself a 2005 graduate of McPherson College, said he knew soon after Frey started observing and teaching as a student in his classrooms that he wanted her on the Lincoln team.
“The way that she carried herself, and the way that she worked with the students and the staff, I knew that I wanted her to be part of what we are doing,” Rierson said. “Her positive attitude, friendliness and genuine caring for students put her above any other candidate for the Horizon Award.”
Rierson said it was hard to overstate Frey’s quality as a teacher.
“The kids absolutely love her,” Rierson said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things. Those students would do anything for her. She’s a great person. You can tell she wears her heart on her sleeve while she’s teaching. It makes me proud to be a McPherson College graduate.”