District surprises Sunset Hill educator with elementary teacher of the year honor

Sunset Hill kindergarten teacher Nicole Corn gets hugs from several of her students after an assembly in which Corn received a surprise recognition on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, as the district's 2018 elementary teacher of the year. Many of Corn's family members attended the assembly, where she was also presented with a ,000 check.

As Nicole Corn stepped to the front of the Sunset Hill Elementary School gym Tuesday, she immediately pointed to her kindergarten students.

Corn was being honored during an assembly as the Lawrence school district’s elementary teacher of the year. But making sure to include her students in the moment is typical of the kindergarten teacher, according to her husband, Steve Corn.

“She is always thinking about her students,” said Steve Corn, who watched his wife being honored Tuesday from the gym’s sideline. “When we first started dating, we went shopping before the school year. We filled up a cart with crayons, markers and glue sticks for her students out of her own pocket. She said she had to get more crayons because students were always breaking them. She still does that before every school year.”

The district surprised Nicole with the teacher-of-the-year announcement at the school where she has taught for five years. She came to the Lawrence district after teaching seven years in her hometown of Topeka.

“I’ve taught kindergarten every year of my career,” Corn said, as she held vases of flowers from the ceremony in both hands. “I love it. There’s never a dull moment.”

Sunset Hill Principal Jeremy Philipp described Corn as a collaborative and innovative teacher who knows how to connect with her students.

“It takes a special kind of person to be a kindergarten teacher, and Nicole is that kind of person,” he said. “She is a nurturer at heart, and it is clear that she absolutely loves what she does every day. She is so calm, and her students respond to that calmness.”

Darcy Kraus, who was principal at Sunset Hill before her recent promotion to district director of elementary school support, said Corn volunteered her out-of-classroom time for leadership teams, research and further study.

Corn earned a bachelor’s degree from Washburn University and a master’s from Baker University.

Corn, Kraus and Assistant Superintendent Jerri Kemble traveled in January to China at the invitation and expense of the host company to participate in discussions with teachers and students on issues involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, critical thinking and problem solving.

That was Corn’s second trip to China in the last 13 months. In January 2017, she visited a school in Shanghai as part of a cultural exchange program. Corn then shared photos, videos and details of the daily lives of Chinese students with her Sunset Hill kindergartners, who became pen pals with students she met in China.

Corn received a $1,000 check from Truity Credit Union for her selection as elementary teacher of the year. Julie Boyle, the district’s communications director, said Corn and the district’s secondary teacher of the year, who will be named later this week, have both been nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year program.