Longtime Hillcrest School teacher Leellyn Tuel sat in the school’s library Tuesday, listening to Superintendent Rick Doll rattle off positive attributes about a teacher.
Until Doll and Geoff Strole, of KU Credit Union, mentioned Tuel’s alma mater, Northwest Missouri State University, she thought her fellow second-grade teacher Denise Johnson was about to be named the district’s 2010 Elementary Teacher of the Year.
“I can’t believe it,” Tuel said, after looking at a $1,000 check from the credit union.
Tuel has taught 25 years in the district, all at Hillcrest except for her first five years at Sunset Hill School.
As her fellow teachers cheered, Tuel received a hug from a former student, sixth-grader Joaquin Dorado-Mariscal. He contributed to Tuel’s nomination along with his parents, Susana Mariscal and Daniel Dorado.
“Mrs. Tuel has been a great teacher to me,” Joaquin wrote four years ago when he was in her second-grade class. “She should get the award you are giving because at first to me it felt great, and it felt like Mrs. Tuel invited me to a new world, like if you found Atlantis.”
Tuel said she was touched because Joaquin initially had struggles in school, but the teacher and student made a pact to work hard together.
She says she is enjoying her time at Hillcrest immensely and wants to finish her career there.
“What makes it special is that you work your hardest trying to do your best to love kids and do the best for them,” Tuel said. “I am always aware of how much I still need to learn. I always feel like a first-year teacher because there’s so much to learn. You’re so aware in a school like this of the good everybody else is doing.”
The district will nominate Tuel for the state elementary teacher of the year award. On Monday, Doll presented Lawrence High vocal teacher Cathy Crispino with the district’s 2010 Secondary Teacher of the Year award.