Lawrence High School, Sunflower Elementary School teachers honored with Horizon Award

Novice teachers chosen for recognition

Lawrence High physics teacher Andy Bricker received the Lawrence school district’s Horizon Award on Thursday. The award honors outstanding novice teachers.

Sunflower School teacher Valisha Nelson received the Lawrence school district’s Horizon Award on Thursday. The award honors outstanding novice teachers.

Two Lawrence public school teachers got a big surprise Thursday.

In the morning, a large group of people, including Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll and Lawrence High School Principal Matt Brungardt, interrupted Andy Bricker’s physics class at LHS.

They had a pretty good reason to do so.

Bricker had won the district’s Horizon Award, which honors novice teachers after a stellar first year in the classroom. Each year, one elementary and one secondary teacher in his or her second year of teaching are honored with the award.

Later that day, Valisha Nelson thought maybe she was in trouble when Sunflower School Principal Sue Hosey called her into a kindergarten classroom.

“I didn’t know if I was in trouble or if I forgot something,” Nelson, who teaches primary English as a Second Language, said.

Doll was on hand at both surprise announcements and read some of the comments from peers that had helped decide the winners.

LHS had to create another Advanced Placement Physics section this year because so many students wanted to spend time in Bricker’s classroom.

“I think more students signed up because of Andy Bricker and his ability to connect with students,” said Alan Gleue, who is the science department chairman at LHS.

“Hearing (Doll) list those things that various people had said, I realized that each one of those people that said those things has been instrumental in helping me,” Bricker said. “I felt grateful and I knew they had helped me so much.”

Bricker’s teaching strategy is to make each student want to learn about science.

“I try to make it comfortable and enjoyable and meaningful to them so they want to be engaged and they want to learn,” he said.

As for Nelson, teaching just seems to be an organic process.

“I use so many strategies, but it just comes natural,” Nelson said. “Ever since I was a kid I wanted to become a teacher.”

And her peers see why.

“Whenever Valisha has been in my classroom with my kindergarten students, you can tell she is a natural teacher,” Sunflower teacher Nancy Scott said.

The awards come with $250, sponsored by KU Credit Union, and a chance to be named the Kansas Horizon Award winner later in the year.