Alumna Paige Towey ‘17 has been chosen as a recipient of the 2019 Kansas Horizon Award from the Kansas State Department of Education.
Sixteen elementary school teachers and 16 high school teachers from across the state were chosen as winners of the Horizon Award, which is for first-year teachers. Horizon Awards “recognize exemplary first-year teachers who perform in a way that distinguishes them as outstanding, according to the KSDE website.
Towey, an elementary teacher at St. Mark’s School (Renwick USD 267) in Cowich, Kansas, was informed in January 2019 and was invited in February to an awards ceremony and educator conference in Topeka.
“Randy Watson, the state’s commissioner of education, called my classroom phone to give me the news,” she said. “I got to celebrate with my class, my co-workers, my family, those who nominated me. It was an amazing day.”
Towey has known about the award for several years and was elated to be a recipient of the honor.
“There’s actually a funny story. When I was in college, I read an article in the Maize newspaper about a teacher who won the Horizon Award. I remember thinking how wonderful of an accomplishment that was, and I cut it out and saved it,” she said. “Three or four years later, it’s pretty crazy to be the one winning it.”
Winning this award, Towey said, is something she will always remember.
“The first year of teaching is a roller coaster, but it was an incredible year, and to be recognized for my work and efforts was very meaningful and special,” she said. “This really was a dream of mine and I felt very grateful that my principal, who nominated me, as well as some of my students’ parents and co-workers who also added to the nomination, felt that I was deserving of such an award.”
For Towey, this award affirms what she is doing in the classroom.
“I truly love being a teacher, and winning this was just the icing on top,” she said. “It’s always nice to have reminders of just how important the job of a teacher really is.”
She added that her family’s support and examples of kindness, patience and love is what led her to this success.
Being the daughter of a teacher and the oldest of four, Towey has always felt teaching was her calling.
“We have pictures of me playing school with my stuffed animal students and making pretend class rosters and schedules. As I got older, I spent all of my free time babysitting. I loved being around kids and sharing in the energy and joy they have,” she said. “It’s honestly kind of hard to trace back the source of my wanting to teach, because it’s always just been there. Now that I’m postgrad and three years into teaching, I feel very fortunate to have felt the calling to this profession.”
Towey credits Newman for giving her the skills it takes to be a teacher.
“Newman’s small class sizes were very conducive to getting to see the whole picture of the job of an educator,” she said. “Our class became very close as we moved through the program together, and having the same professors and classmates helped form connections between the classes and the material.”
Towey said her students inspire her daily and keep her motivated, adding they are her favorite part about teaching. Although inspiration doesn’t stop there.
“I am also inspired by the many teachers, paras, administrators, custodians, nurses, bus drivers, cooks and all those who give their all every day working in schools. It takes dedication and teamwork to do what is right for kids and I am so inspired by those who work so hard and selflessly to make it happen,” she said.
“I am very lucky to work with amazing educators who provide support, help and encouragement.”