USD 428 News

In recognition for twenty-five years of service as a teacher, five USD 428 teachers were honored for the influence such service extends across the years, making a fundamental contribution to the future of Kansas and the Nation. Pictured from left to right, Khris Thexton, superintendent; Diana Zecha, teacher; Travis McAtee, teacher; and Linda Reschke, teacher. Not pictured, Kelly Brack and Susan Thornburg.


USD 428, Great Bend Middles School and Great Bend High School Athletics extend a message of appreciation for Steve Beaumont’s 31 years of classroom and 19 years as the head coach of the GBHS Swim Team. Students, colleagues and the community are proud to celebrate Beaumont’s career and impact on USD 428 throughout his distinguished career.


At the close of an eight-year career with Barton County Special Services and USD 428, Peggy McMillon (center) celebrates retirement with Christie Gerdes, BCSS director and Khris Thexton, superintendent.


Khris Thexton, superintendent, congratulates Jan Keeley on a 20 year career with USD 428. After nine years in the administrative office at GBHS, Keeley worked for 11 years at the District Education Center.


Serving as the public information director for 11 years, Jennifer Schartz accepted a token of appreciation from Khris Thexten, superintendent, to commemorate her retirement from USD 428.


After nearly 22 years, Sue Ware retired from the position of accounts payable clerk at USD 428.

Service and careers celebrated at USD 428

May 9, 2019

Two teachers are answering the call of retirement at the close of this school year. Additionally, twelve classified personnel are retiring or have already retired during the year.

Retirees were honored at the annual Employee Recognition Banquet held on Wednesday, May 8 at the Great Bend Middle School commons area. At that time, five educators were also recognized for 25 years of service to the education profession.

Retiring teachers include Steve Beaumont, Great Bend Middle School computer teacher, and GBHS swim coach; and Jackie Peters, Riley Elementary fourth-grade teacher.

Classified retirees include Steve Corn, maintenance; Angie Fanshier, Lincoln paraprofessional; John Heinrich, Jr., maintenance; Hal Hollembeak, maintenance; Jan Keeley, district assistant financial director; Marlene Martin, Parent Teacher Resource Center; Nancy McAllister, BCSS in Ellinwood; Peggy McMillon, Washington school psychologist; Scott Morrow, maintenance; Teri Newman, GBHS paraprofessional; Jennifer Schartz, district public information director; Sue Ware, district account payable clerk.

Twenty-five year veteran educators include Kelly Brack, GBMS physical education teacher; Travis McAtee, GBHS science teacher; Linda Reschke, Jefferson Elementary special education teacher; Susan Thornburg, Park Elementary English language teacher; and Diana Zecha, Hoisington High School special education teacher.

Information from retiring teachers and staff who provided comments about their careers in Great Bend follow.

Steve Beaumont

For 31 years, Beaumont has shared his passion for teaching and classroom instruction with USD 428. Beginning his career in elementary education, Beaumont taught fifth-grade at Riley Elementary for five years, he taught sixth-grade at Washington Elementary for six years, followed by teaching sixth-grade at Eisenhower Elementary for three years. Beaumont then landed at Great Bend Middle for the past 17 years where he will close his career as a computer science teacher.

During his time in education, Beaumont commented on the significant changes he’s witnessed in classroom technology.

“Students are able to access and use technology for learning in many ways, but teachers able to create lessons, share ideas, and communicate with others so much more effectively,” said Beaumont. “I look back at the days when we recorded grades and attendance in a spiral-bound gradebook, calculated grades using a calculator, and had to write out our lessons each week in our plan books. I truly appreciate how much easier it is to manage daily tasks now compared to 30 years ago.”

In addition to his skill in the classroom, Beaumont also lent his talents and leadership to the Great Bend High School Swim Team for 19 years as head coach. David Meter, GBHS athletic director, commended Beaumont’s 16 straight WAC titles, his involvement with the Golden Belt Summer Swim Program, as well as his outstanding retention rate of swim team members from freshman year through senior year.

Peggy McMillon

Peggy McMillon worked within USD 428 and the Barton County Special Service Cooperative for over eight years. She served students in several buildings, including, Eisenhower, Otis-Bison, Holy Family, Central Kansas Christian Academy, Helping Hands, and most recently, Riley Elementary.

McMillon shared a favorite moment from a few weeks ago while testing with a student at Riley Elementary.

“Working on a subtest, I asked the student to give me definitions for common words,” said McMillon. “As the words began to get more difficult his frustration started to grow. Finally he put his head in his hands and said ‘can’t you just Google it!’ – a reminder of how things have changed,” said McMillon.

Jan Keeley

Celebrating 20 years with USD 428, Keeley’s career included nine years at Great Bend High School followed by 11 years at the USD 428 District Education Center.

“I’ve always felt USD 428 was an excellent school district,” said Keeley.

Reflecting on time spent with colleagues, Keeley commented, “My favorite moments include Homecoming parades, Christmas parties, and coffee breaks.”

Jennifer Schartz

Working for 11 years as USD 428’s pubic information director, Jennifer Schartz retired in the fall of 2018. Schartz expressed her appreciation for Dr. Vernon who hired her and understood her responsibility as a Barton County commissioner. “He allowed me to work a flexible schedule and I appreciate Khris Thexton who continued to honor that agreement.”

“The best part of the job for me was the relations I formed,” said Schartz. “I enjoyed getting back to my newspaper roots by producing The Relay on a monthly basis and the freedom I was given to make the job my own.”

Sue Ware

Sue Ware served as the accounts payable clerk for USD 428 for nearly 22 years before retiring in the summer of 2018.

Ware commended USD 428 for “always staying at the front edge of technology and for continued support of the Fine Arts.”

The last day of school for USD 428 is scheduled for Thursday, May 23. After a teacher workday on the 24, summer recess will commence with Memorial Day weekend for both students and teachers.


To acknowledge notable achievement in the face of socio-economic challenges in their student populations, Jean Clifford, State Board of Education Member, presented Riley Elementary Principal, JoAnn Blevins and Park Elementary Principal, Phil Heeke, with Challenge Awards on Friday, April 12. Left to right, Thexton, Blevins, Clifford, and Heeke.


Students rise to the challenge

April 12, 2019

Two Great Bend elementary schools received special recognition this week in the form of a Challenge Award from the Kansas State Department of Education for making a noticeable difference in student achievement despite facing challenges in their student populations.

USD 428’s Park Elementary School and Riley Elementary School received the Challenge Award honor for 2018. Jean Clifford, district 5 representative to the Kansas State Board of Education, delivered the certificates and sincere congratulations in Great Bend on Friday, April 12.

“41 schools in District 5 received Challenge Awards, more than any other district,” said Clifford. “To me, this illustrates that our rural schools are doing well for our students and helping them to excel.”

Administered by the Confidence in Education Task Force. Since the awards inception in 2002, Challenge Awards have been presented to over 1,600 schools across the state. Award criteria from the KSDE website states that Challenge Awards recognize schools for outstanding achievement and uncommon accomplishment based on Kansas math and reading assessment results and other qualifying factors, specifically the sample size, ethnicity and social-economic status of those taking the test.

“We are proud of our teachers and support staff at Park, Riley, and across the district who are investing in the success of our children every day,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “The Challenge Award is motivation for our administrators and teacher to reach for even higher levels of performance.”


Strength in numbers, over 800 GBHS students and staff served the community as part of the 7th Annual GBHS Community Service Day.


GBHS students, led by GBHS Teacher Dan Heath, discussed the game plan for cleanup efforts at the City Band shell and Jack Kilby Square.


Morgan Stevens, owner of Yoga Central, welcome GBHS teacher Sergio Ramirez and a crew of seven students for Community Service Day on April 24.

Community served, community built

April 24, 2019

Great Bend High School’s Seventh Annual Community Service Day led over 800 students and staff out of the school and into the community on Wednesday, April 24. Students and teachers were scattered throughout Great Bend, and Barton County, working on various projects that included everything from painting, sorting, picking up trash, working on city, church, and school grounds, and helping local nonprofits and businesses. With students logging hours of community service and working hard to better the community, job sites across Great Bend served as “classrooms” for life skills and community pride.

"Community Service Day has been a huge success at GBHS by giving us one day where we can show our entire community that 800 teenagers can, and do make a difference in this city,” said Great Bend High School Principal, Tim Friess. “The day is a great way to give back a little to those that have helped us and to show the value of helping others. Our students seem to get as much satisfaction out of the day as those who are being helped.”

Morgan Stevens, owner of Yoga Central in Great Bend, welcomed students to her business to help refresh her landscaping and a few other small projects. “It means the world to me that these kids come out and put the effort in,” Stevens said. “To do the work of these eight people would take me days and days, when as a business owner, finding even one day seems impossible.”

“Community service day helps bring things together, helping our students be a part of our community builds the connections that keep our community afloat,” said Stevens.

At the Barton County Historical Village, students divided and conquered to accomplish both indoor and outdoor tasks. Monica Bowers, volunteer and master gardener commented about students clearing flowerbeds and landscaping, saying, “we are so grateful for community service day. This day gives us a fresh start for the season and makes the work of our volunteers attainable.”

The idea for this project came from a few passionate students more than seven years ago and continues to be refined and enhanced with the help of several student organizations and Andrea Stalcup who serves as the Community Service Day coordinator. Generous corporate sponsors underwrite expenses from the day. The event has garnered tremendous support over the years, giving the student body the opportunity to select a charity to support with the excess funds. This year, Kans for Kids Fighting Cancer Foundation was chosen and representatives Deb Reif, executive director, and Kaito Richter, cancer survivor and Kans for Kids ambassador, accepted a check in the amount of $1,250 for the organization. Additionally, Tina Hiss led a district-wide effort, involving the elementary buildings, in the collection of cans to be donated to Kans for Kids.




(Above, left to right) Dir. of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser, Assistant Superintendent John Popp, Superintendent Khris Thexton, and Riley Student Support Coach Beth Rein, surprised Jenna Dreiling, first-grade teacher, with the elementary nomination to Kansas Teacher of the Year.












(Above, left to right) Assistant Superintendent John Popp, Superintendent Khris Thexton, GBMS Principal David Reiser and Dir. of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser surprised Cortnea Wilson, eighth-grade science teacher, with the secondary Kansas Teacher of the Year nomination on Thursday, March 28.

Top teachers recognized in USD 428

April 5, 2019

Two well-deserving educators from Great Bend USD 428 have been recognized for teaching excellence by being named the district’s Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year.

Jenna Dreiling, first-grade teacher at Riley Elementary School, and Cortnea Wilson, eighth-grade science teacher at Great Bend Middle School, will advance to the 2020 Kansas Teacher of the Year competition.

“The Teacher of the Year program is a great way to recognize our outstanding teachers and to also showcase to other districts in the state the innovative teaching methods and programs our teachers provide to our students, district and community,” said Khris Thexton, superintendent.

“Jenna and Cortnea were chosen from a very strong pool of candidates,” Thexton said. “I want to congratulate them on a job well done. We are confident that they will represent our district well as the 2019-2020 USD 428 Kansas Teacher of the Year nominees.”

The Board of Education will congratulated these outstanding teachers at its meeting regular monthly meeting, scheduled for Monday, April 8 at 5pm at the District Education Center.

Jenna Dreiling, Elementary Nominee – Kansas Teacher of the Year

“A cheerful smile and positive attitude might be Jenna’s most obvious attributes,” said Riley School Principal JoAnn Blevins, “but when you look into her classroom, what sets her apart is her ability to truly listen to her students, validate their thoughts and feelings, and make each student feel special every single day.”

“This year, Mrs. Dreiling has embraced making her classroom trauma-responsive. She has set up different avenues for students to express themselves and advocate for their needs in positive ways. Her students are able to resolve conflict with one another more easily and focus on learning.”

“Mrs. Dreiling builds community and collaboration with the people who work around her,” said Blevins. “She mentors new teachers and invites colleagues into her classroom, as well as asking questions and communicating well with others. She wants to see others be successful.”

Dreiling earned a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education K-6 with a minor in Special Education from Fort Hays State University, and later a Master’s in Science Education with an endorsement in English for Speakers of other Languages from Newman University. She began her teaching career at USD 232 De Soto, Kan. at Riverview Elementary. After her first year of teaching, she returned to Great Bend to Riley Elementary School where she has been teaching first-grade for 10 years. Dreiling serves on the Trauma Informed Team at Riley Elementary as well as the English Language Arts committee, and MTSS team (multi-tier system of support). At the district level, Dreiling serves on the Curriculum Steering Committee and Healthy Living Committee.

In speaking of her teaching philosophy, Dreiling explains that her experience as a first-grade student herself is one thing that guides her teaching practices today.

“It was my teacher that noticed early in the year that I was struggling. She knew my ability and knew I could succeed. She sought out the right tools, created a plan with my parents, and set me on the path of success.

“All students are unique and should be given an education based on their needs and abilities,” said Dreiling. “I work to create a positive and caring classroom environment, as well as build relationships with my students that allow for their individual success.

“Watching my students advance on their educational path and celebrating their accomplishments is the largest reward any educator could hope for,” Dreiling said.

Cortnea Wilson, Secondary Nominee – Kansas Teacher of the Year

“The staff and students are all proud of Mrs. Wilson and her accomplishments,” said GBMS Principal David Reiser. “Preparing students for life after high school, she is leading our building in integrating college and career competencies into her daily instruction.

“She helps lead our College and Career Competencies school improvement committee that is focused on the skills kids need to be successful,” Reiser said. “She is a great collaborator, actively sharing her expertise and classroom methods with colleagues for the benefit of our students and goals.

“The enthusiastic reaction from her students speaks volumes about Mrs. Wilson’s impact and reputation. We know she will represent USD 428 well in the state competition,” he said.

Wilson is an eight-year veteran teacher at the middle school. Wilson returned to her hometown to teach after graduating from Sterling College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. She earned a Master’s in Education from Fort Hays State University in 2016 while teaching full-time. Wilson serves on the GBMS Building Leadership Team, MTSS Implementation Team and is co-chair of the College and Career Competencies School Improvement Team.

“I believe my greatest contribution to education is providing students with opportunity to become problem solvers, work cooperatively with others, find their own strengths through goal setting all while covering science curriculum,” Wilson said in her application.

“I find the ‘ah-ha’ moment very rewarding,” she said. “Seeing a student’s face light-up with pride because they mastered a skill or came up with a solution to a problem is a one of a kind feeling.

“To see a student beaming with pride after accomplishing a goal, witnessing growth in my students – that’s the most rewarding part of my job,” said Wilson.

Student achievement on display

March 18, 2019

Show and tell is more than a kindergarten mainstay, Great Bend Middle School teachers and students applied this concept at Monday night’s Spring Expo to engage the whole family and build relationships.

On March 18, The Second Annual Great Bend Middle School Spring Expo welcomed nearly 300 attendees to view student achievements in an engaging format. Families enjoyed hands-on booths highlighting educational tools used in classrooms, the opportunity to drive robots or even to experience with hands-on equations. A scavenger hunt encouraged interaction and conversation, with prizes provided by the GBMS Booster Club and the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau.

New this year, sixth-grade students from across the district were invited to attend, providing an early look into life at GBMS.

“The Spring Expo was a great way to introduce the sixth graders to our building and to view part of the exciting learning that takes place at GBMS,” said Tami Schepmann, GBMS teacher. “I really enjoyed seeing families visit with teachers and interact with the different projects, especially the middle school students showing and demonstrating for their younger siblings.”

Photo Captions:

GBMS Robotics: At the Second Annual GBMS Spring Expo, eighth-grade student Sawyer Stoskopf was on-hand to encourage parents and family members to try out the Vex Robot, which is used in the classroom as well as by the GBMS Robotics Club.

English Language Arts: Renee Buntain, literacy coach at GBMS, speaks with a student and his family Monday evening at the Second Annual GBMS Spring Expo. The event gave parents and families an opportunity to connect with teachers and explore their student’s achievements.

GBMS Math: Jennifer Axman, seventh-grade math teacher, demonstrates hands-on equations to a sixth-grade student from Park Elementary School and her father. This educational tool uses math manipulatives to teach algebraic equations.

Learning the risk and reward of Wall Street

March 20, 2019

Three Great Bend High School students are one step closer to wall street after coming out on top of the Hiss Sherman Investment Challenge.

Utilizing a software called “How the Market Works,” over 40 participating students started the month of February with $100,000 virtual cash to invest according to what they have been learning in class and their own discretion. The online trading platform provides research tools, investment content, and real-time trading to simulate participation in the stock market.

At the end of the month-long simulation, the top three winners were John Szot, first; Trent Stueder, second; and Pablo Martinez, third. Recognized in front of their peers on March 18, students were surprised in class and rewarded for their efforts with gift cards provided by the local investment firm.

“Of the top 10 finishers, 9 are students in my Investing class,” said Lacy Wolters, GBHS career/ACT coordinator. “Most of them followed the stock prices closely and captured investment gains frequently.

“An unexpected twist was our first-place winner who is both a freshman and new to investing all together” said Wolters. “John Szot invested in one stock and held it the entire time, realizing the largest gain of over 8%.

“This was a great opportunity for our students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to a real-life simulation,” she said. “Students were able to experience the movement of the market when returns were both positive and negative.

“We hope this helped give students a good, real-life foundation in the world of investments and financial planning,” said Matt Hiss, investment advisor representative with Hiss-Sherman Wealth Management. “We’ve had great feedback from this program, nearly doubling the participation from year one to year two tells us we’re offering a program that students both learn from and enjoy. We are happy to partner with the school and give students this experience.”

Photo Captions: Matt & Dena Hiss with Hiss Sherman Wealth Management, along with Lacy Wolters, GBHS career/ACT advisor, pose with winning students who were surprised in class on March 18.

Top photo, John Szot, first place; middle photo, Trent Stueder, second place; bottom photo, Pablo Martinez, third place.

Taking the show on the road

March 13, 2019

After more than 12 months of preparation and planning, members of the A Cappella Choir from Great Bend High School are in route to Washington, D.C. More than a sightseeing excursion, the choir composed of 40 members will perform at numerous notable locations including the National WWII Memorial, National Shrine and the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, a new location on the itinerary this year.

Susan Stambaugh, vocal music director for GBHS has spearheaded this trip throughout her 25-year career. On the other end of the spectrum, Lorrie Stickney, accompanist, is embarking on her first A Cappella trip. Lucky for students, this trip is not ‘all work and no play.’ They, along with the 20 chaperones accompanying the group, will have time to enjoy the highlights of Washington, D.C. with tours scheduled at the US Holocaust Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, US Capitol Building, the Smithsonian Museums and more. Another highlight of the trip is a Spirit Dinner Cruise on the Potomac River to celebrate their final evening in D.C.

A Cappella is comprised of juniors and seniors from GBHS who audition to participate each year. Some students have been working to raise funds for this trip for nearly two years. From chili suppers to “rent-a-student” opportunities, the students and staff would like to thank the Great Bend business community as well as the community-at-large for their generous financial support. The community is invited to view highlights from the trip on Great Bend High School’s Facebook page. Upon their return, A Cappella, the Madrigal Pop Singers, as well as the freshmen and sophomore choirs, will begin preparation for the Annual Variety Show scheduled for May 10 and 11, 2019.

Photo Caption: Before loading the buses, students performed a few of pieces they have prepared to sing in Washington, D.C. this weekend. Susan Stambaugh, vocal music director at GBHS, also shared a sincere “thank-you” to the parents gathered, as well as the community, for their support and encouragement of the students as they prepared and raised funds for the trip.


Dr. Matt Friedeman named to GBHS Hall of Fame

February 15, 2019

For 10 years, Great Bend High School has been proud to honor the accomplishments and career achievements of its graduates through the Great Bend High School Hall of Fame awards. On February 15, the community is invited to celebrate the induction of Dr. Matt Friedman.

Matt Friedeman is currently a professor of evangelism and discipleship at Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, Miss. He is married to Mary Friedeman, and they have six children, Caleb, Joshua, Elijah, Hannah, Ezekiel and Isaiah. After graduating from GBHS, Friedeman earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in education from the University of Kansas in 1981 and 1982. He then earned a master’s in theology from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1985 and a Ph.D in education from KU in 1987.

His resume is varied. It includes:

• Played football and track at Great Bend High School – still holds the discuss record of 198’ 11”

• Honors in track at KU – 3 year captain of KU track team, National Collegiate Athletic Association All-American, Big Eight champion and selected to compete in the 1980 Olympic trials in the discuss

• Had a radio talk show broadcast daily on American Family Radio

• Contributing columnist for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger

• Founding pastor of Day Spring Community Church

• Political commentator for WAPT/Channel 16 in Jackson

• Mission area coordinator and chaplain at Hinds County Detention Center and Penal Farm

• Traveled to Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand, Hungary, East Europe and the Netherlands speaking and conducting seminars

• Written over 1,200 columns, articles, papers and book chapters

While attending Great Bend High School, Dr. Friedeman was an accomplished athlete. Part of the football and track teams, he still holds a GBHS record for a discuss throw of 198’11”. His career at KU began with a track scholarship and additional athletic accolades. He was a three-year captain of the KU track team, NCAA All-American, Big Eight Champion, and selected to compete in the 1980 Olympic trials for discuss.

The Great Bend High School Hall of Fame luncheon was held on Friday, February 15 at Stoneridge Country Club. Dr. Friedeman was also honored before the boys basketball game that evening, followed by reception for the public to congratulate him.

Great Bend High School Hall of Fame Inductees:

2008 – Skip Yowell, John Keller and Jack Kilby

2009 – Jack Bowman, Sean Murphy and Tim Weiser

2010 – Jenny Allford and Glenn Opie

2011 – Don Halbower and Dan McGovern

2012 – Karla (Bender) Leibham and Bill McKown

2013 – Allen Keiswetter and Celia LaBranche

2014 – George Nossaman and Randy Goering

2015 – Shannon Schartz and Ty Cobb

2016 – Jean Cavanaugh and Mike Goss

2017 – Larry Becker and Jim Calcara

2018 – Dr. Matt Friedeman

Make-A-Wish Presentation – Team Owen

February 7, 2019

A curious student-body assembled in a sea of purple at Eisenhower Elementary School on Thursday, unknowing the tremendous surprise one of their classmates was about to receive. Opening remarks by Eisenhower Principal, Laurie Harwood, were quickly eclipsed by a troupe of adults wearing mouse ears and performing silly antics to excite the audience. Students would soon realize that “Team Owen” was about to be granted the wish of a lifetime.

“Today is a momentous occasion as Owen will be surprised with the news that his one-true wish will be coming true. We hope that his wish experience will bring him and his family a much-needed break from the realities associated with his condition. We are also extremely grateful for the support of Great Bend Schools and the Eisenhower Elementary community. Today is a true testament to the caring nature of the state of Kansas and we couldn’t be more excited for Owen,” said LuAnn Bott, President & CEO of Make-A-Wish Missouri & Kansas.

Lori Likes, representing Fee Insurance Group out of Hutchinson, Kan., was one of the wish grantors on-site to help deliver the good news.

“It was an absolute joy meeting our Wish Kid, Owen and his family,” said Likes. I fell in love immediately with his little freckled face and his big smile. It was an eye opening experience watching Owen and his family interact. They were all so on point as to Owen’s needs. I learned a lot that day about Owen, it was easy to see what gives him joy in life. Since that initial meeting, I have been able to stay up to date with Owen as one of his many followers on social media. We were all completely overjoyed with tear-filled eyes, when Make-A-Wish was able to make Owen’s wish come true.”

“Owen and his family are very deserving of this dream-come-true trip to Disney World,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “We are humbled by Owen’s strength, determination and joy. Including the Eisenhower family in this big announcement gave our family at USD 428 the chance to cheer-on the Klug family; we couldn’t be more excited for them!”

Laurie Harwood, Eisenhower Elementary School principal, worked behind the scenes with Make-A-Wish and the family to ensure the day would be a success. Students, staff and faculty were asked to wear purple because it is the designated color for Epilepsy Awareness as well as the color of the “Team Owen” shirts that have been produced locally.

About Owen:

Owen is an 11-year-old 5th grader at Eisenhower Elementary in Great Bend. He lives in Odin with his dad Gavin, mom Kiley, little brothers Dexter and Blake, and dog Brutus. Owen enjoys anything that involves biking, swinging, spinning, music, and jumping. He loves people, especially his teachers, bus driver, caretakers, friends, and family. He is a sweet, laid back boy who spreads happiness and inspiration wherever he goes.

Owen had his first seizure at 6 months of age after an uncomplicated birth. The next few years were full of testing, several different medication trials, procedures, surgeries, and a lot of questions. Owen, at his worst, had over 250 seizures a day. Because of the severe intractable epilepsy he was enduring, Owen lost a number of developmental skills such as sitting independently, clapping, and walking in a walker. Owen was finally clinically diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome when he was 6 years old. Dravet Syndrome is characterized by severe, chronic, intractable epilepsy, oftentimes paired with global developmental delay, sensory impairment, orthopedic conditions, and many other issues.

Owen takes his daily struggles in stride. He loves life, and his smile lights up the lives of everyone who knows him. He is so tough, so resilient, and so deserving of a granted wish!

GBHS Robotics Club tackles first tournament

January 29, 2019

The excitement was electric as Great Bend Robotics Club members prepared for their first competition, the VEX Turning Point Robotics Tournament held in St. John, Kan on Tuesday, Jan. 29. The Great Bend High School team competed against more than 25 teams from eight school districts.

The teams use robots from VEX Robotics. While each team gets exactly the same robot pieces, the design and programing are entirely up to the individual teams. Coached by Jake Hofflinger (GBHS) and Amber Lucchesi (GBMS), students began designing their robot last September and have been working diligently after school since the beginning of the year to prepare for this inaugural tournament. Working within a 12’x12’ playing area, the robots have to work autonomously (by themselves) for the first 15 seconds of a round then the driver takes over for the remaining 1:45 seconds.

“In the fast-paced tournament format, the kids were able to score and overcame some of their programing errors,” said Hofflinger. “It was impressive to watch them expose design flaws and come up with alternative programing on the fly.”

“Sometimes you see that your design is not going to work,” said Gregory Aumiller, eighth-grade club member who accompanied the high school team for research. “You just have to start over. You can’t get too attached to a design idea.”

While the Great Bend team placed 21 in the tournament, their sights are already set on their next opportunity to compete. “I am happy and surprised with how we did today,” said Mayra Ramirez, club president. “We did not have time to practice before we competed at the venue, but the months of preparation kept us competitive.”

A next step for the Great Bend Robotics Club is to identify a corporate partner/sponsor to enhance the technology available to the middle school and high school students. “Access to better equipment would make the team more competitive at the tournaments, in addition to the robust skills they’ll gain using the technology,” said Hofflinger. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or sponsorship opportunities is invited to contact Jake Hofflinger, GBHS technology teacher and robotics coach.

Photo Caption:

The Great Bend High School Robotics team, accompanied by two middle school observers, competed in their first ever tournament this week in St. John.

Meet the Team - front row: Mayra Ramirez, club president and designer, Amy To, driver, Ana Alvarez, programmer; back row: Sawyer Stoskopf, eighth-grade, Gregory Aumiller, eighth-grade, Justin Owen, logistics


100th day of school transports kindergartners back 100 years

January 25, 2019

Kindergartners at Jefferson Elementary School left a few modern conveniences behind as they traveled back 100 years to celebrate the 100th day of school on Friday, Jan. 25.

Abigail Jonas, kindergarten teacher, spent extra time at the school transforming her classroom into a one-room schoolhouse with brown paper walls, a prop word burning stove, chalk board details, and a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the school’s namesake, for a finishing touch. The day was made possible with the help of Denise Morrison, Renee Owen and many other enthusiastic parents who helped with clothes to complete the experience for the kids.

“Beyond the fun and games, the 100th day of school gives my students a chance to reflect on what they’ve learned so far,” said Jonas. “This year’s 1919 theme also gave them an appreciation for the technology, and classroom tools we use every day to learn. And an added bonus is the memories they made!”


Christmas came early at Great Bend Middle School

December 20, 2018

When needs were identified, Special Education Teacher Connie Ward, got rolling on a solution. A new trike was recently delivered to the Great Bend Middle School Special Education program, meeting the physical needs of their students while generating confidence.

“Last May, when I decided to follow my students from Lincoln Elementary to the Great Bend Middle School, one of my first priorities was addressing the absence of a playground with something to get my students moving,” said Ward. “I knew these students had never enjoyed the experience of riding a bike. Thanks to the help of Todd Vanskike, I’ve seen smiles, heard joyful singing, and listened to the kids talk about the freedom they feel on the trike.”

Eager to try out their new wheels, the class is utilizing the multipurpose room at the Great Bend Middle School to ride the trike. As temperatures get warmer this spring, the trike will easily move outdoors. Due to the nature of their disabilities, 7th & 8th grade special education students are bussed to the Great Bend High School for Adaptive PE, the trike provides a social and emotional outlet, as well as physical exercise for the students in a much closer proximity.

To select the right equipment, Ward provided a list of safety and security requirements to Todd Vanskike, owner of Golden Belt Bicycle in downtown Great Bend. Balance and stability were two of the issues that were a priority. Vanskike worked Worksman Cycles to customize the bike with seat belts, two sets of pedals and other elements to meet the needs of the students.

“I’m always happy to help a customer find the right bike,” said Vanskike, “but this project was pretty special knowing it will provide a new experience for the students and be something they can enjoy.”

Miller achieves national certification

December 10, 2018

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards celebrates 3,907 new National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) and another 4,446 Board-certified teachers who successfully renewed their certification in 2018. Traci Miller, second-grade teacher at Riley Elementary School was the only candidate from USD 428 in Great Bend, KS to complete the three-year process and achieve NBCT.

“The NTSB process has made me a more reflective practitioner,” said Miller. While Miller has been a successful teacher for over 20 years, she explained how the road to certification provided a fresh look at her classroom. “It’s a connected approach,” she said, “seeing students as individuals, acknowledging their preferences in learning and applying evaluation tools to monitor my teaching methods for positive outcomes.”

“Going through the National Board Certification is one of the most difficult things a teachers can do,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “NBCT shows the dedication Mrs. Miller has to her profession, assuring our students, parents, and community she has met the highest standards of the teaching profession. Mrs. Miller is an outstanding educator and we are extremely proud to have her as a part of the USD 428 family!”

Miller joins over 450 teachers across Kansas, and over 122,000 across all 50 states, who have earned the profession’s highest mark of achievement through a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process, demonstrating their proven impact on student learning and achievement.

“I’m thrilled to celebrate our new National Board Certified Teachers. This is a great personal accomplishment, but it’s more than that – this accomplishment is reason to celebrate the impact Board-certified teachers have on millions of students nationwide and on the teaching profession at-large. School principals and systems leaders from across the country regularly tell me that NBCTs are making a difference in their students’ learning, strengthening their schools and their communities,” said Peggy Brookins, NBCT, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

During the week of December 10, Educators across the country will celebrate all Board-certified teachers with #TeamNBCT week. The activities include in-person and online recognition of this important accomplishment.

“National Board Certification is about helping teachers become great, it is about elevating the teaching profession, and it is about helping children achieve at higher rates,” said Brookins. “The certification process impacts teaching and learning well beyond an individual teacher’s classroom.”

Signe Cook named to 2019 KTOY Team

November 21, 2018

A winner in every sense of the word, Signe Cook, a fifth-grade teacher at Park Elementary School, was honored as one of eight finalists from across the state at the annual Kansas Teacher of the Year (KTOY) awards presentation held on Saturday, November 17 in Wichita, KS. While Cook was not the top recipient, being named a finalist on the 2019 KTOY Team is a significant honor and provides ample opportunity to share her passion for teaching and influence the future of education in Kansas.

“I am honored to be a part of the 2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team,” said Cook. “The team is comprised of the best of the best, representing all the hardworking and amazing teachers across the state. In the year ahead, I am excited to use my voice to advocate in a positive way for the teachers and students of Kansas.”

As a member of the 2019 KTOY Team, Cook will spend time this spring visiting her team members’ school districts, as well as traveling to all 25 colleges in Kansas to talk with pre-service teachers.

“Each member of the team will have a different message and focus when visiting with the college students,” said Cook. “I will focus on teaching to the whole child, building relationships and creating a positive environment in which students can learn. “Teaching is the profession that makes all other careers possible. Right now, teacher shortage and retention are big issues facing our state. We hope to put teaching in a more positive light and inspire others to join the profession and stay.”

Cook has been a teacher at Park Elementary School for three years. She has also taught in a number of Kansas communities including Fowler, Junction City, Dighton, Lakin, Horton, and Winchester for a combined 20 years. Cook is one of only three teachers from USD 428 to be named a finalist since the award program began in 1992. Crystal Cross was named a finalist in 2000, followed by Joyce Anschutz in 2005.

“Signe is phenomenal teacher and leader in our district,” said Park school Principal Phil Heeke. “We will miss her in the classroom this spring while she travels with the KTOY team, but we are excited about the knowledge and tools she will bring back to our district to benefit our students.”

If you are interested in following Mrs. Cook and the 2019 KTOY Team’s journey, connect with the Facebook page “2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team” or on Twitter @KTOY2019 or Instagram @ktoy2019.

New Year, new options for nourishment

Remember your mom telling you breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well, she was right!

For many students, the ‘morning rush’ causes them to skip breakfast. Beginning in 2019, the USD 428 Central Kitchen will open the cafeteria and other remote locations at Great Bend High School to provide a Second Chance Breakfast daily, between first and second period. Quick, grab-and-go menu items will be available in both the GBHS Cafeteria and the Panther Athletic Center. Students will simply scan their ID badges – making the checkout process quick and easy.

“Eating a healthy breakfast will impact just about every other dimension of your day,” said Kristy Alvord, Director of Food Service for USD 428. “It affects how you perform both mentally and physically. After a whole night of fasting during sleep, breakfast instantly raises your body’s energy level and restores your blood glucose levels to normal.”

Second Chance Breakfast is slated to begin on January 3, 2019 when school resumes after the winter break. Specific menu offerings will be announced soon.

Reading Creates Community

2018 Great Bend Reading Initiatives celebrates community connections and family engagement

In the month of November, nearly 1,300 students from across USD 428 have enjoyed reading “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Katie DiCamillo. Reading has the power to ignite the imagination, and when paired with family and community engagement, the positive outcomes are infinite. The 2018 Great Bend Reading Initiative provided kindergarten through students and families with a road map to complete the book in one month, as well as ample opportunities to explore the community. Kip Wilson, principal at Jefferson Elementary School, served as the 2018 coordinator and introduced partner programming with the Great Bend Public Library and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.

“The overall goal for the initiative is to bring families together around literacy at home,” said Wilson. “We want parents to get involved; reading creates quality time and provides an avenue for parents to take an active role in their child’s learning.”

New additions to the schedule this year included “Books n’ Breakfast” and individual “Family Night” for each elementary school at the Great Bend Public Library. The grand finale was a district-wide Family Reading Night at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center that included book-based activities, an inflatable planetarium show, crafts, and an opportunity to explore newly renovated exhibits.

“The community partnerships we established this year have been great,” said Wilson. “Our partners helped connect the themes and characters in the book to engaging activities for our families. Beyond the events, our hosts took advantage of the opportunity to showcase resources and programs they provide year-round. “We hope our families will continue to utilize these resources and continue to engage as a family unit.”

In its fourth year, the Great Bend Reading Initiative is an annual program of USD 428. This program fulfills the mission of USD 428 “to educate and prepare all students to become responsible citizens and lifelong learners,” by engaging parents and families outside the classroom.