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Mahnken selected Educator of the Year

Pitsco Education honors educators at Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce event

Published May 25, 2018

PITTSBURG, KS (May 25, 2018) – Pitsco Education honored three local educators at this year's Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce banquet. Kelsey Boulware, Pittsburg Community Middle School (PCMS); Steve Mahnken, George Nettels Elementary School; and Jill VanWey, St. Mary's Elementary School, were selected as the top three finalists from a large pool of applicants. Mahnken was recognized as the 2018 Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year.

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The Educator of the Year Award is sponsored by Pitsco Education as a means to recognize the dedicated Crawford County teachers. Local educators are nominated by colleagues, parents, and community members for their contributions to their classrooms, school buildings, districts, and communities. Each nominee submits an application, and finalists complete interviews. Boulware, Mahnken, and VanWey all shared a similar path, going back to school and coming to education after working in other industries, but each clearly demonstrated that working with students was their true passion.

Steve Mahnken, a fourth-grade teacher at George Nettels Elementary School, formerly worked in management for a local grocery store prior to pursuing an education degree at Pittsburg State University (PSU) at the age of 40. His wife, Lisa, also an educator in southeast Kansas, and close friend Dan Duling, director of the SEK Interlocal #637, encouraged him to follow his heart and natural talent. His philosophy as an educator centers around teaching the whole child, helping his students develop into well-rounded, kind people. He incorporates outdoor activities such as gardening, music, and focused hands-on STEM experiences. Throughout all academic pursuits and extracurricular activities, he works to teach students about being responsible and caring people of character. Mahnken and his fellow fourth-grade teachers, Whitney Rogers and Mandy Arck, have been instrumental in establishing and facilitating STEM education in their grade-level labs as well as initiating school-wide STEM Fridays.

Kelsey Boulware, a sixth-grade teacher at PCMS, was a top finalist. Boulware completed her education to be a graphic artist and then finished training to be a cosmetologist. While working as a licensed cosmetologist, she realized her true passion was working with children. She received her education degree from PSU and began teaching first grade in Columbus before making the leap to middle school two years ago. She prides herself on making learning "fun, not boring" and having a relationship-centric approach to teaching. She strives to help students develop skills that will serve them beyond their time in the classroom, including responsibility and compassion. She has been a driving force in the PCMS Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization and is the PCMS volleyball coach.

Jill VanWey, preschool teacher at St. Mary's Elementary School, was also selected as a finalist. VanWey found her way to early childhood education while working as a regional school speech therapist. She earned a master's in Early Childhood Education and then jumped at the chance to join the St. Mary's family when they established their pre-K program. She believes preschool is the cornerstone of education, as it is where students develop not only their foundational verbal and literacy skills but also where they learn to learn and to get along with others.



Pitsco Education is the leading provider of hands-on K-12 STEM solutions. STEM education prepares learners for the future through the integration of science, technology, engineering, and math concepts using relevant hands-on applications to connect school, community, and work. Our various products, activities, curriculum, and solutions promote positive learning experiences and continued classroom success.

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– Dr. Tammy Scot, teacher, Arapahoe Charter School, Arapahoe, North Carolina

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