Copeland, Berglund named DeSoto teachers of the year
Last Thursday Mary Etta Copeland and Jennifer Berglund were busy doing the things teachers do.
Berglund planned to grade her students' state writing assessment tests and Copeland was getting her music students ready for a performance in Kansas City, Mo., later this month.
By the end of the day the two women would share the title of DeSoto School District Teacher of the Year.
Copeland was named DeSoto's Secondary Teacher of the Year and Berglund was awarded Elementary Teacher of the Year. The surprise announcement came from Marilyn Layman, district superintendent, Sharon Zoellner, assistant superintendent and Carol Farmer, the district's public relations specialist.
Berglund said she knew something was up when she saw her bosses outside her home with a bouquet of balloons and a platter of cookies.
"I was at home grading the tests and I looked outside and saw Dr. Layman, Dr. Zoellner and Carol Farmer there," she said. "I was curious as to why they were coming over. I just invited them into my home and they said 'Congratulations.'"
Copeland was at school for her visit, which she said left her at a loss for words.
"I'm in awe," she said. "That's all I can really say."
Copeland, a music and psychology teacher at DeSoto High, has taught for 33 years, in DeSoto.
Berglund teaches fifth grade at Clear Creek Elementary. She began teaching eight years ago and has been with the DeSoto School District for two years.
Although the two are from different generations and teach different subjects, their reasons for teaching are strikingly similar.
"I love it. Like is not a strong enough word," Copeland said of her career choice. "I've loved being in school since I was little. I find it very satisfying."
Berglund echoed those thoughts.
"I like working with children and the educational setting itself," Berglund said. "I've always liked being in school, even as a child. I prefer an educational setting as opposed to a business setting."
Both teachers said they feel lucky to teach in the district and look forward to representing their fellow teachers in the coming year.
"I think it's a good opportunity to promote DeSoto schools," Copeland said. "DeSoto has changed a lot over the years. Obviously, there has been a lot of growth. But that growth has been based on a strong educational plan. We've been progressive. I've always found many strengths in the DeSoto district. My two kids went through school here and they got an excellent education. It served them well on into college."
Berglund taught in two districts prior to coming to DeSoto. She thinks the DeSoto district is among the best.
"It's top notch. I definitely consider this district to be the best I've been in. I see this as a place where I'll stay," she said. "I feel I'm a representative of the district, not the teacher of the year. I represent all the teachers I work with. I'm not above or beyond them in any way."
Sara Pugh, Clear Creek Elementary teacher, helped coordinate this year's selection process. Pugh said Copeland and Berglund were nominated by their peers and chosen by a committee of administrators, teachers and parents. According to Pugh, the committee takes a close look at the teaching philosophies of the nominees.
"The nominees have to fill out a five-page application where they're asked about their philosophy of education and how they could help others in the state," she said. "Just going through the process makes you think about why you got into teaching and what it means to you."
Berglund confirmed that the application process was complicated. Her philosophy on teaching, however, is very simple.
"I try to help children develop the skills they need for life," she said. "To do that, I think you have to work with the children, their parents and your colleagues. I'm a teacher, but I'm also a member of the community. I think the connection between community and school is very important."
Copeland's connection to the community spans two generations. She's not only taught the children of some of her former students, she's taught some children twice.
"I taught at the elementary level before I came to the high school, so I've had some of these kids when they were little and again when they were big," she said. "I think the most important jobs in the world are service-oriented and they are greatly overlooked."
Copeland and Berglund will now complete a second application for the state's regional competition.
Eight will be selected on the regional level to be finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year. DeSoto High teacher Karen Wall was named regional winner last year, an honor that reflected well on the district, Zoellner said.
"We see the Teacher of the Year as an opportunity for us to showcase the talent we have in the district," Zoellner said.