Jason Springer's first teaching job - halfway across the world - involved a language barrier.
But it helped hook the former Peace Corps volunteer into the field.
"I've always believed this philosophy that if I can teach Thai children who don't know English, I can probably teach kids in America," he said in front of 26 of his Free State High School students.
Things seem to be working out nicely for the second-year history teacher.
To present him with a Lawrence Horizon Award on Monday morning, Superintendent Randy Weseman led a prize patrol that interrupted Springer's Advanced Placement European History class. The district gives out two awards per year.
"His expectations are high, but because kids like and respect Jason, they are willing to work hard for him," said Jackie Stafford, a peer assistant with the district.
Weseman said Springer draws from his life experiences in the Peace Corps to help students learn. A co-chairman of the social studies department, Springer also sponsors Model United Nations.
"Jason's strengths in the classroom rest on his knowledge of the content, his planning and organization and his natural ability to lecture and present material to students," Free State Principal Joe Snyder said.
Weseman and Snyder led a group of district administrators into the morning class.
"It took me completely by surprise, but it's real nice to be able to represent the district and also know that my students are here to witness this as well," Springer said.
District administrators will also nominate him for the Kansas Horizon Award program.
Another Lawrence teacher will get a surprise visit from Weseman's prize patrol today, as he hands out the elementary level Horizon Award.