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Seniors will honor high school educators with Wolfe Family Teaching Awards

Thursday, May 04, 2017

LAWRENCE — Three outstanding high school teachers will be recognized with 2017 Wolfe Family Teaching Awards during the University of Kansas Commencement weekend. Several years after having set foot in their high school classrooms, seniors say the influence of these educators is not forgotten.  

“When students identify lifelong impact at a time when the system focuses narrowly on improving standardized test scores, that may be the greatest measure of a teacher’s true worth,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education. “There are few better rewards for a teacher than seeing students succeed after they leave their classroom.”

Nominations are submitted by KU seniors. Students from any major can nominate their former teachers, and the winners can be high school teachers from anywhere in the world. The 2017 award recipients:

  • Shawn Hornung, Wamego High School, Wamego
  • Clair Pennycuff, Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School, Wichita
  • Robert Sauber, Southeast of Saline Secondary School, Gypsum.

Hornung was nominated by Megan Elder, a senior in business administration with a minor in public policy. Elder explains that without Hornung, she would not be the person she is today. In her nomination, she specifically writes:

“[Hornung] fostered my appreciation for the diversity and marvels of the world. Most importantly, he showed me the independent nature of education. I need not fit the mold of a student but instead hold myself to my own standard of higher learning.”

Pennycuff was nominated by Henry Moore, a senior in accounting. Moore completed English classes with Pennycuff in high school, and in his nomination, he writes:

“The care and dedication Clair shows her students has proven to be a priceless, intangible asset over her 10-year career. For myself, Clair has been the voice in the back of my head over the last four years that hasn’t allowed me to stray away from my academic and professional aspirations.”

Sauber was nominated by Alisha Ptacek, a senior in education. In her nomination, Ptacek indicates that Sauber’s qualities as a teacher influenced her decision to also pursue a career in education. She writes:

“As a future teacher, I intend to model many of my teaching philosophies after his methods, and I hope that someday I will be as exceptional as he is. [Sauber] is exceptionally caring and continually strives for each and every one of his students to achieve academic success.”

Recipients each receive a cash award of $3,000, and their respective high schools each receive $1,000. The award winners were selected from a large pool of outstanding nominees by a committee of faculty, administrators and students from KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Education.

The recipients will be honored during Commencement weekend at the KU School of Education convocation ceremony and a dinner held in their honor.

The Wolfe Family Teaching Award was created in 2006 with a $250,000 gift from R. Dean Wolfe, business administration ’66 and juris doctor ’69, and Cheryl L. Wolfe, Spanish education ’69, Clayton, Missouri, through the Wolfe Family Foundation. The award fund is managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

The KU School of Education is a nationally ranked school preparing educators and health, sport & exercise professionals as leaders. 


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