Story Project

Sharing personal stories about individual students

LS R-7 graduates become engaged in unique setting -- middle-school Spanish classroom Former BCMS students credit their LS R-7 education for opening up countless opportunities


Sixteen years ago, eighth-graders Jillian Dent and Mukul Sharma met in Cathy Nalivaiko’s Spanish class at Bernard Campbell Middle School and began a relationship that has lasted through high school, college and adulthood. On Oct. 7, the couple returned to this classroom where Mr. Sharma proposed to Miss Dent.

The 2006 Lee’s Summit North High School graduates both live in Chicago where Miss Dent is an attorney at Sidley Austin and Mr. Sharma is a credit investor at EquiTrust Life Insurance Company. At LSNHS, she was ranked third in her class and was National Honor Society president, and he was valedictorian as well as Student Senate president. Both attended the University of Pennsylvania where they earned bachelor’s degrees with Miss Dent earning her juris doctor from the University of Missouri School of Law and Mr. Sharma earning his master’s in business administration from Northwestern University.

Mr. Sharma said the weekend of Oct. 7 fell close to Miss Dent’s 30th birthday, so the two returned to Lee’s Summit to celebrate with family. “I told her that we had plans to have dinner with some of her family,” he said. “That cover was quickly blown after I told Jillian that I had a surprise for her inside of Campbell as we were driving by the building!”

Dr. Sherri Lewis, principal, opened up the school that Saturday evening so Mr. Sharma could officially propose in the classroom where they first met. He also had the opportunity to decorate the classroom in preparation for the special moment. The couple is planning a wedding in fall 2018.

They shared that they believed the education they received within the school district opened up countless opportunities. “We left Lee's Summit schools extremely well prepared to attend Penn and graduate school beyond,” Mr. Sharma said. “Our Lee's Summit education set a strong foundation (from an academic, extracurricular and professional perspective) for our lives.”

Submitted by Jillian Dent and Mukul Sharma.

A story of compassion, love, hope and determination in the third grade

As hard as it is to relive the past five months, we feel it is important to share our story. It is a story of compassion, love, hope and determination. One of the third-grade teachers at Richardson Elementary, Mrs. Cynthia Kaleikau is a true hero to our family–specifically our son, Dominic. This teacher helped our son and family find strength and hope in a time of hardship. Mrs. Kaelikau is a teacher who has gone above and beyond and is the definition of committed to her students.

On Dominic’s birthday (March 17th), what was supposed to be an innocent night at a trampoline park turned into a nightmare. Dominic broke his tibia, both growth plates with his knee muscle completely flipping over. Dominic had three different surgeries (one of which was over 12 plus hours). His knee muscle was flipped back into place, a clamp installed to hold it together and external fixators installed on the side of his leg to stretch his growth plates — with a rod holding it all together. Despite a catheter for pain, Dominic had to stay in the hospital for five days because the pain was so unbearable, also coping with a high fever resulting from all the stress on his body.

Every day was a struggle for this sweet boy as he adjusted to life in a hospital bed in our living room. He was restricted to the bed, no movement. He had to finish third grade in his hospital bed, isolated and confined. Mrs. Kaleikau asked to be Dominic’s homebound teacher, visiting our home everyday after the school. She provided us with the work and lesson plans to keep him caught up with his class. Not only was she doing his schooling, she gave Dominic something to look forward to everyday during this hard time. She came to our home and lifted Dominic’s spirit with her familiar face and caring personality. She was patient yet still pushed Dominic to his full potential. Mrs. Kaleikau had his classmates make cards and notes, showing Dominic that he had peers supporting and caring for him from afar. For a 9-year-old boy, this meant the world. She did not just teach Dominic–she cared and was compassionate to our family. Richardson Elementary staff is phenomenal–from the cafeteria staff sending home cards of encouragement to Principal Lisa Detig ensuring Dominic knew he was cared for at school.

When Dominic was able to be moved to a wheelchair, we visited his class. Mrs. Kaleikau had a large banner with students waiting to welcome Dominic. I will never forget the look on his face when we walked into his classroom. He felt so special, and you could see tears in his eyes. It was so amazing to know my son was with such an amazing teacher. Mrs. Kaleikau is the reason students thrive through adversity. She defines what a teacher should be and how teachers can help drive a student’s confidence. I am forever grateful for the dedication and service of Mrs. Kaleikau to my son and family. She is a true gift to the R-7 School District and my family.

Submitted by: Chris, Cortney, Dominic and Mia Moreno

(Dominic just started in fourth grade and Mia is in second grade)

Sixth-grade teacher helps students learn to believe in themselves, have confidence and to support one another

I am writing to not only recognize but also thank my daughter's sixth-grade teacher; Mr. Ben Vinck. Reagan has been a student at Richardson Elementary since kindergarten. We have been blessed to be a part of such an amazing school and fortunate that our children have always had amazing teachers. With that being said, going into Reagan's sixth-grade year she learned that for the first time of her elementary life she would have a male teacher. Sixth grade came with great intimidation as is and now a male teacher....she was terrified to say the least. Reagan has always been our shy child so we knew we had to reassure her that she would have just as an amazing relationship with a male teacher as she would a female teacher. Well, needless to say, not only did Reagan grow out of her shyness but she as well as other classmates came to love Mr. Vinck. Mr. Vinck taught the students more than just the required curriculum. He taught them to believe in themselves, have confidence, never give up and how to support one another. Mr. Vinck listened to each and everyone of them. He gave them his time and undivided attention. He made sure every student knew that they mattered. One of the ways Mr. Vinck built these relationships was showing interest in their life not only in school but outside of school. Mr. Vinck told each and every student that he would attend at least one of their extracurricular activities; for my daughter that activity was dance. One thing we have learned over the years of dance is that the competition days are long and usually out of town. We did not expect her teacher to honor his commitment considering the circumstances. Well, to our surprise and our daughter's, Mr. Vinck kept his commitment and drove an hour out of his way to support his student and watch her dance. Not only did he come but also brought his older sister who was previously a dancer and is now a nurse -- exactly what Reagan wants to do when she grows up. It was so awesome to see the excitement in Reagan's eyes and an incredible opportunity for her to meet someone that she aspires to be like.
I cannot say thank you enough, Mr. Vinck. I hope you know how much you are appreciated for going above and beyond. What you have done for our daughter as well as other students is remarkable. You have taught them skills and given them memories that they will hold onto for a lifetime. Thank you!

Submitted by Brett and Jennifer Maynard

Elementary counselor called ‘our angel at Greenwood’ by family

From the first time my children and I met Mrs. Mindi Jones she had a very pleasant, compassionate, nice, warm spirit and was very kind to us. We had just moved to Greenwood, and it was a big change for us but Mrs. Mindi made it all worth it. My children always came home talking about how nice she was and still is to them. The most important thing was that she knew their names. This year has been rough for my family and I, and Mrs. Mindi has gone above and beyond her duties as a counselor. She has helped my children with school issues and my family with personal changes in our home. I'm so grateful to God that she was our angel at Greenwood for the two years we were there. I wish we could take her on our new journey we had to start which meant that we had to depart from Mrs. Mindi -- but she will always be with us in spirit because of the love she has shown my children and me. I thank you. Mrs. Mindi is the No. 1 counselor of a lifetime.
From: London, Jaudae, Erashae, Elaysha and Aisha. We thank you and from the bottom of our hearts love you.

Submitted by Aisha Thompson

LS R-7 teacher and her son go above and beyond for hospitalized student

Woodland Elementary kindergartener Mira Fencl met the man of her dreams while hospitalized thanks to teacher Michelle Uptegrove and her son. Due to a life-threatening medical condition, Mira is receiving homebound lessons from Mrs. Uptegrove at home and frequently at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“Like any 5-year-old girl, she loves princesses!” said Mrs. Uptegrove. “Over the past several weeks, she has had to undergo three surgeries, and I wanted to do something special for her.” After purchasing a Cinderella gown and “glass slippers” for Mira, the teacher recruited her son, Connor, a college student who was home for Thanksgiving break.
“I worked with the nurses at Children’s Mercy to get her ‘princess ready,’ and then she met her prince,” Mrs. Uptegrove added. “Mira was over the moon and was a true little princess!” During the special hospital visit, Connor, wearing a Prince Charming costume, and Mira toured her “castle” and “kingdom.” They also played Hungry, Hungry Hippos with Princess Mira beating the prince hands-down, Mrs. Uptegrove added.
Although health issues have kept Mira from attending school this year, she has been able to use her Google Chromebook to log into her kindergarten class each day. Through Connect2Learn, each R-7 student is provided a Google Chromebook to use at home and at school.
Mrs. Uptegrove is a life skills teacher at Cedar Creek Elementary, Lee’s Summit R-7 Teacher of the Year and Missouri Teacher of the Year finalist. Connor is a freshman attending school in South Carolina and a graduate of Blue Springs South High School.

LS R-7 retiring bus driver recognized by his students and families on last day of school

When students and families learned that long-time Lee’s Summit R-7 school bus driver Mel Carey was retiring at the end of this school year, they wanted to come up with a special way to say thank you. Working together, families in the Greenwood Elementary attendance area created a sign brigade along Mr. Carey’s familiar Lake Winnebago route.
When the 20-year Lee’s Summit R-7 veteran began what would be his last route through Lake Winnebago, he was surprised to see dozens of signs of appreciation in the yards of his many present and past bus riders.
One of the parents of the children on Mr. Carey’s school bus shared the thoughts of many via a letter to the R-7 School District. Jennifer Talley, mother of two Greenwood Elementary students, wrote the following about the well-respected driver, known as Mr. Mel to his students:
“We have been so fortunate to have experienced life with Mr. Mel, our trusted bus driver, for numerous years. My two children are entering the fifth and third grade next year at Greenwood Elementary and I must tell you, they are sad to see him go. Like so many kids and parents alike, they have grown so fond of the man they see more as a grandfather. They looked forward to his daily, ‘good mornings,’ as well as his jovial smile and kind laugh. If ever I were late getting home, he would make sure my children were accounted for before leaving the bus stop. He has truly become a family member for those of us in Lake Winnebago that relied on him daily to safely transport our kids to and from school.
“I just wanted to extend my appreciation to our district for hiring amazing drivers like him. I wanted to share a picture of what we did for him today, all because of some amazing Lake Winnebago moms who had a great idea to show him how much we appreciate him on his final day. I believe every family, and even former bus riders families, made a sign to display as a token of our appreciation for this amazing man.
“Thank you, Lee's Summit R-7, for continuing to do what is best for our children. He has been a blessing and will be missed by so many. As an alumni of Lee’s Summit High School and former teacher in the district, I feel it is important to show appreciation where it is do. He deserves so much appreciation!”

LSHS counselor’s suggestion is turning point in student’s life

I have a daughter who is now in college, but who went all the way through R-7. Sally Sabata was her counselor all through Lee’s Summit High School. She has been an invaluable resource for both my girls, including my older daughter and the youngest, now a junior.
When our oldest was enrolling for her senior year, she only needed three classes to graduate. We were unsure what to do with the rest of her day, so we sat down with Sally. She knew Julie (pictured) enjoyed art and suggested we look at Herndon. Herndon had a graphic design program she may be interested in trying. This is not something we would have ever considered, as we were unaware of the program.
It was a turning point in her life. She loved it and excelled at it. She is currently a sophomore in the graphic technologies program at Pittsburg State University. This was a school Sally suggested she look into because of its excellent program. Our daughter is working on the campus paper as a graphic designer. She is also the newest employee to be invited to attend the National Collegiate Media Conference in Texas at the end of October.
Without Sally’s ideas and help, I’m not sure where she’d be today. I’d venture to guess she wouldn’t be as happy as she is today.

Submitted by Don and Barb Spencer

Student gains confidence and is ready to be successful in school


Underwood Elementary teacher helps pave the way for kindergarten student’s success Starting kindergarten is scary for kids. Only 5 to 6 years into life and you are thrown into a big school with kids you probably don’t know and all of the sudden you can’t play all day! Looking at it from the eyes of a child you can see how important kindergarten teachers really are to helping children get started on a successful school career.

In the 2014-15 school year, one specific teacher redefined the words “success in school” for our family. Mrs. Sari Williams at Underwood Elementary simply epitomizes the essence of what it means to love children and help them be successful. Mrs. Williams was new to the school and in her first year of teaching in Lee’s Summit but you would never have known that. She was the absolute rock that our childSarah West UWE Story Project-Aug2015 needed to ease some of those kindergarten fears and put her on the road to success. Mrs. Williams exceeded every expectation we had of a teacher. As a result, we have a first-grader who is not only prepared for success but is confident she can be successful. This is all thanks to one special kindergarten teacher who loved “her kids” enough to pave the way!

Submitted by Jason and Jill West

Opportunities have students soar in LS R-7

Students succeed thanks to support from schools and community An anonymous parent shares her story about her sons’ success in Lee’s Summit R-7 schools, including Hawthorn Hill, Summit Lakes Middle School and Lee’s Summit West High School. Around 12 years ago, the local mother and her two sons moved from the East Coast to Lee’s Summit to be close to family. For several years, the family was challenged by illness and custody matters. The children’s mother shared that her two sons continued to soar despite these challenges. “I have had so much support from the community and from Lee’s Summit schools – after all was said and done.” The oldest child became active in taekwondo, eventually earning his black belt and working at the martial-arts school. “He purchased his own car with cash and continued his journey of high grades,” his proud mother said. “He has been accepted to several colleges and has a few scholarships, too.” Her younger son recently won a prestigious visual art award through the House of Representatives, is active in track, is an outstanding dancer and participates in an outside painting class. “He is soaring in school,” his mother added. “Despite circumstances and misunderstood family situations, we were all blessed in many ways,” his mother said. “If the kids had stayed on the East Coast, they would never had some of the opportunities they had here.”

Submitted by Anonymous

Family grateful to educators for not giving up on struggling student


Our son, Brennen Dooley, began kindergarten at Richardson in fall of 2002. Throughout the next two years, he struggled academically and seemed distracted at school. We continued to work with his teachers, enrolled him in taekwondo and worked with his doctor regarding medication for attention deficit disorder. During Brennen’s second-grade year, I was talking to Richardson educators Korie Boenker and Sarah Eckert about our frustrations when one of them asked, “Have you had Brennen’s eyes tested?” Although Brennen had passed the school eye exam with 20/20 vision, the educators suggested that he be checked by an eye doctor.

We soon learned that Brennen had strabismus, which kept his eyes from aligning simultaneously. His was intermittent and only occurred when he was looking down at something, such as his schoolwork. Brennen struggled because he could not see his papers. Midway through second grade, Brennen had corrective eye surgery. Unfortunately, he was still behind in school. With the help of tutoring from Mrs. Eckert and Julie Dawson as well as assistance from his teachers, Brennen was caught up in all subjects by fifth grade while also earning his black belt in taekwondo. By middle school, Brennen no longer took medication for ADD and was making all A’s and B’s. He is now a senior, graduating with a 3.5 grade-point average. He’s active in National Honor Society and Student Senate and was recommended for Missouri Boys State. Brennen recently received a four-year academic scholarship to Lindenwood University where he will dive for their swim/dive team. We are especially grateful to his teachers at Richardson who didn’t give up: Julie Lindstrom (speech) Jennifer Graham, Kelly Smith, Linda Wilfong, Deanna Allison, Korie Boenker, Jeff Mix, Renee Graybill, Tracy Rasmussen, Kimberly Hassler and Shirla Cesari with special thanks to Mrs. Boenker and Mrs. Eckert. We are extremely thankful for Mr. Mix who served as his dive coach for many years and has been a positive role model. Brennen’s future plans are to become a teacher and a dive coach. We are so proud of his hard work and accomplishments. Submitted by Lynette Dooley (Brennen’s mom) and Eric Dooley (Brennen’s dad)

Submitted by Anonymous

Greenwood Elementary teacher is shining star in student's life

My daughter Jaudae Johnson started Greenwood Elementary back in August 2014. Jaudae was the new kid, and she felt out of place because of the transition to a totally new environment. Jaudae had some struggles in the beginning and throughout the year. But with help from Mrs. Annette Stewart -- including her sternness combined with her warm, compassionate, caring personality – we have seen a big difference. Mrs. Stewart goes above and beyond to make sure that every student is treated equally. Mrs. Stewart helped Jaudae understand and realize who she really is and how much of an influence and impact she can have on her peers. Mrs. Stewart also works with Jaudae to help strengthen her identity, time management skills and life skills. Jaudae has improved so much by being in Mrs. Stewart’s class in terms of academics, attitude, personality and self-control. She is also a better leader. Mrs. Stewart and Jaudae have built such a warm bond that on Jaudae's birthday Mrs. Stewart surprised Jaudae and showed up. Jaudae just couldn't believe her eyes when the doorbell rang and I opened the door and on the other side was Mrs. Stewart. She took time out of her busy schedule on her day off to stop by to wish Jaudae a happy birthday. Jaudae was so happy, saying, "Out of all my years in elementary I never had a teacher come to my birthday party. I'm so honored to have a teacher like Mrs. Stewart." As a parent it makes me feel great that my daughter has a nurturing teacher who will tell her when she's wrong and also praise her when she’s right. Mrs. Stewart has taught Jaudae so much that will stay with her for the rest of her life. All it takes is one shining star to brighten someone else’s sky and to make a world of difference. That bright star is Mrs. Annette Stewart. Let your light continue to shine now and forever more. Thank you so much, Mrs. Stewart. We love you. From Jaudae Johnson and Family

Submitted by Aisha Thompson

Student shines at Hawthorn Hill Elementary thanks to kindergarten teacher

Most parents worry when they send their littles off to kindergarten... it's natural and expected. In August 2007, our first child Lanie started kindergarten under circumstances her dad and I hadn’t "planned" for. She’d been diagnosed with ADHD, OCD and Anxiety Disorder and was under evaluation for an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She was placed in Beth Pickard’s class, and it was the perfect match for Lanie. We knew immediately that Lanie would shine there. In October 2001, she was officially diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Change and transition of any kind are hard, but for Lanie they can be debilitating. We were terrified of first grade and Beth knew that. She called us a few days before school started and offered to meet us at Hawthorn Hill Elementary to personally walk Lanie from kindergarten to her new home in first grade. She did this on her personal time for Lanie ... for us. She showed her around, pointed out the things that were the same and different and did whatever she could to reassure all of us that she would be amazing in first grade. Mrs. Pickard is something special and we will be forever grateful to her for taking that walk with us.

Submitted by Terra Barrows

Underwood Elementary staff provides compassionate assistance to student

Our daughter, Kaylee, has attended Underwood from kindergarten through sixth grade. During those seven years, Mrs. Jeanie Hank, Mrs. Karen Hudson, Mrs. Robin Mishler and Mrs. Kathie Sloan have been champions for Kaylee in providing compassionate assistance to help Kaylee improve her reading,KayleeMerrigan-Nov2014 speech and math skills. Lori and I have seen a huge improvement in Kaylee’s speech, language and math skills, and we sincerely appreciate Mrs. Hank, Mrs. Hudson, Mrs. Mishler and Mrs. Sloan’s efforts to further Kaylee’s educational development. Kaylee loves attending Underwood, and she often speaks fondly of Mrs. Hank, Mrs. Hudson, Mrs. Mishler and Mrs. Sloan. During our parent/teacher conferences all four teachers have met with us through the years, and I have always been touched by their caring attitude for Kaylee. All of the teachers at Underwood have been wonderful to Holly and Kaylee as our daughters have fond memories of their elementary school days. It’s not the building that makes Underwood special it is the teachers’ compassion and dedication to their students. Thank you for this opportunity to express our appreciation to Mrs. Hank, Mrs. Hudson, Mrs. Mishler and Mrs. Sloan and the other wonderful teachers, band and choir leaders, art and physical-education instructors, the librarians, cooks, custodians and Underwood administration. Underwood Elementary has been a wonderful experience for our daughters.

Submitted by John Merrigan (Kaylee’s Dad)

Making a difference in the life of a high-school student

My son, Cory, now a senior at Lee’s Summit North High School, took chemistry I in the 10th grade with Elizabeth Bock. After getting into the class, he clearly felt like he was in over his head and was seriously doubting himself. He was maintaining a B in the class but felt like he was struggling. Although he had always liked science, he began to think that chemistry might not be for him. He has always had dreams of getting into veterinarian school but had heard how difficult it was and even began doubting that. It was causing problems at home because we were convinced Cory was just not putting enough effort into it. I received a phone call one night from Mrs. Bock. She had called to tell me how proud she was of Cory and his effort and that it doesn’t happen with many students but Cory just “gets chemistry.” She went on to tell me how sharp she thinks he is. When we talked about Cory’s dream of veterinarian school, Mrs. Bock said she had no doubt he could get into a school and make a great veterinarian. When I relayed this conversation to Cory (after apologizing to him) it made all the difference in the world. Not only did Cory finish that chemistry class, he went on to take International Baccalaureate chemistry and is planning on getting his undergraduate degree in chemistry before continuing on to veterinarian school. I truly believe his life could have taken a whole different direction without the faith and encouragement shown to him by Mrs. Bock and the fact that she took time out of her own life to call us. For that I will be forever grateful to her.

Submitted by Melanie Mitchell

Richardson Elementary principal successfully leads entire school while still focusing on individual student

Kelly Seitz, principal at Richardson Elementary, has made a positive impact on our family. When my oldest children, Mia and Rachel, approached her to support the community anti-bullying initiative that they were launching in conjunction with the Discovery Girls magazine, she worked with them enthusiastically. She treated their vision with dignity and helped them feel that their contribution to the school community was important.
A few months later Rachel (our fifth-grader) was invited to join the ASPIRE (gifted) program and decided to decline this offer, concerned about falling behind in her core classes. With our encouragement, she requested a meeting with the ASPIRE teacher to learn more before making a final decision. When we arrived at the meeting, Mrs. Seitz was there, ready to support and encourage Rachel to do what she thought was best for her own education.
Fast forward a couple of months and it was time to reevaluate Drew's (our kindergartener) IEP (individual education program). Once again, Mrs. Seitz found the time to be in attendance. We have come to realize through Mrs. Seitz's example that truly powerful leadership happens when one can both manage a large body of people and yet still find time to nurture the needs of the individual. Thank you Mrs. Seitz for your inspiring leadership.

Submitted by Valerie Hamaker

Bus driver goes above and beyond to teach integrity and life lessons

Bus drivers not only have a responsibility for the safety of children, but they also are important teachers. This letter is to recognize Clyde Williams as an outstanding bus driver and teacher.
He cares about the well being of his students and demonstrates positive character traits. And he, as a bus driver, also functions like a teacher. Clyde has been driving our bus since our youngest was a shy preschooler afraid to look at the bus. For a year he would smile and wave to her when her sisters got on the bus. This year she is a confident kindergartener thanks to Clyde. Riding the bus is her favorite part.
Clyde not only taught my youngest life skills but also showed all of my girls how to go the extra mile. One left her coat on the bus and Clyde came back to my house with it. He said he thought she might be cold that weekend. One left a favorite book on the bus, and he went out of his way to bring it to her.
My daughters tell me of instances where he goes above and beyond. Many times Clyde has shown what a man of integrity really is, and I am proud that our school has Clyde Williams teaching our children how to never tire of doing the right thing.

Submitted by Debbie Mesz

Music teachers help student believe in himself and share his talents

Sharing a story from Summit Lakes Middle School and Lee's Summit West High School I want to join with others to congratulate Beth Files on her selection as 2014 Teacher of the Year. I was fortunate to be a colleague of Beth’s at Summit Lakes Middle School for 11 years. She is a valued member of the staff. Most importantly, students genuinely like and highly respect Mrs. Files because she conveys a sincere, caring interest in them and she makes learning to sing and music performances fun.
From a parent’s perspective, both of our children had the opportunity to be in Beth’s seventh- and eighth-grade music classes, as well as Summit Lakes Singers. Those experiences sparked their interest and desire to continue with vocal music beyond middle school. Our son Scott, who is finishing his junior year at Lee’s Summit West High School, has had the opportunity to take lessons the past two years in Beth’s private voice studio. Through these lessons, Beth expanded Scott’s knowledge of music and techniques of singing while all along cultivating his belief in himself.
Scott is a reserved, quiet-natured person. We would have never imagined that he would one day come home and share with us that he was going to sing a solo for music contest, as well as in ensembles, which has lead to three successful years of participating in state music contests. Beth develops a positive relationship with her students and gets to know their personalities. She saw potential in Scott, and through developing his music skills, confidence to perform came with ease. We see the happiness and fulfillment each week through his lessons with Mrs. Files as well as through his involvement in Lee's Summit West music activities.
Lee’s Summit West is known for its extraordinary music program. As a parent, I appreciated the students’ exposure to musical experiences in the elementary school. I have seen the continuity in the high quality programming Mrs. Files offers in middle school and that is accelerated in high school. Lee's Summit West music teachers Amy Krinke and Ryan Sullivan and accompanist Terrin Pabst have continued to develop our son’s skills on a daily basis in Concert Choir class and through extracurricular Chamber Choir performance groups Titan Harmony and Una Voce. Scott appreciates his teachers and truly enjoys having the opportunity to be a part of the music program. We are grateful for Mrs. Files and the LSWHS music teachers for developing a program of excellence. These music experiences in middle school and high school have been a highlight of Scott’s extracurricular activities. Thank you for your positive influence and the difference you have made in our son’s life as well as in the lives of countless other students.

Submitted by Julie Ferguson

Meadow Lane Elementary teacher helps kindergartener mature, develop lifelong love of learning

When our youngest started kindergarten at Meadow Lane Elementary this year we had concerns. Not because our child didn’t know the alphabet or basic math skills; we had trepidations about maturity. The first month of school was challenging and was not without notes about keeping hands to self, listening during the lesson and overall silliness in class. Mrs. Robin Overman became our greatest ally and together we supported our child’s improvement. She worked closely with our child and within the first three months we saw remarkable improvement in maturity, learning comprehension and dedication to school work. One specific action Mrs. Overman has taken is handing out “otter awards” when she catches her students doing something good. Whenever our child comes home with an award, you can physically see the pride due to Mrs. Overman’s recognition. Our child has been so positively impacted by Mrs. Overman when we ask ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’, our child responds “a teacher, like Mrs. Overman.” Teachers like Mrs. Overman make all the difference in creating students with a lifelong love of learning!

Parent is grateful for LSNHS band teacher’s kindness

My child is a student at Lee’s Summit North High School and was recently with the marching band at a fall competition. Late in the evening my child became very ill and it came on so suddenly that there was no opportunity to make it to the restroom. When my child called me the poor thing was hiding between the buses, alone, a filthy mess, scared, sick and freezing. I had just returned home from the competition and wasn’t sure how to best help. Fortunately, I had Mr. John Johnson’s cell phone and I called him and he was absolutely amazing, kind and gentle with my child. Mr. Johnson found someone to loan my child a blanket and found a place inside where they could sit until my child’s father arrived. Not only did Mr. Johnson miss important events at the competition while he sat with my sick child, he made sure my child felt very comfortable in a most embarrassing situation. His complete kindness and sacrifice brings tears to my eyes and fills my heart with deep gratitude. I wanted to make you aware of what an exceptional person works for you!

Sunset Valley Elementary teacher doesn’t give up on struggling student

Ms. Regan Russell, kindergarten teacher at Sunset Valley Elementary, sees and believes in the potential of her students. She is the gateway to the children she educates HunterRushtonPhotoOct2013future school careers. Most specifically she never gave up on my son, Hunter. He has struggles in reading not consistent with anything she has seen before. Ms. Russell spent many hours outside of the school day researching and meeting with other educators to find a potential solution to help Hunter succeed. Finally she came across a solution that took my son from a non reader to a reader. She didn’t stop there. Over the summer she continued to dedicate time to meeting with Hunter to tutor him so that he wouldn’t lose the headway he had already gained. Ms. Russell never gives up on her students. She always perseveres to make sure they succeed. Hunter made his first 100 percent on his sight words this year. For her I will always be truly thankful!!
Submitted by Cherie Rushton

Summit Pointe Elementary makes a difference for kindergartener

My daughter, Dakota, was in private school for three and a half years. In spite of the extra help the school gave her, halfway through her kindergarten year she still didn't know 10 letters of the alphabet. I asked the Lee's Summit School District to test her IQ, thinking perhaps she had a learning disability. Carrie Graap came to the school and decided that yes, with Dakota's history, to test her. Although her IQ was average, she did test well below in reading. After much consideration and a meeting with Dr. Heather Kenney and Sara Murphy at Summit Point Elementary, I decided to put Dakota into the public school. After coming up with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), Mrs. Jennifer Posson began working with Dakota twice a day for an hour. Not to mention the help that her teacher Mrs. Nicole Williamson-Decker gave her. After just six days of attending Summit Pointe, my daughter came to me with a book and said, "Look mom, I can read c-a-t, cat." I could not believe it! I asked her to read the next word (thinking maybe it was just a lucky guess). Dakota continued to sound out and read the 58-word book with little help. As her father and I sat crying and listening to her exclaim, "I CAN READ, I CAN READ," we just couldn't believe it! For 45 minutes she made me write words for her to read. Although, she still needs help, it is unbelievable the difference the Lee's Summit R-7 School District has made in her progress. She is now excited about going to school and learning. We would like to thank everyone involved and are so happy we made this decision.
Thank you so much, The Penrod Family

Thanks to R-7 School District for preparing daughter for college and real world

Our daughter, Erica, who attended kindergarten through 12th grade in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, graduated from Lee’s Summit North High School in May 2009. Her A+ scholarship allowed her to attend Longview for two years where she was one of only a handful of students who graduated on time in May 2011. The cost to us was only her books and a few lab fees! Incredible! Her associate’s degree transferred seamlessly to the University of Central Missouri where she majored in criminal justice and by taking summer classes was eligible to graduate a semester early in December 2012. Twelve days after graduation, she was offered a position with the Lee’s Summit Police Department as a police officer. She will graduate from the police academy on August 15, 2013, ready to serve her hometown. After her first few days at the academy, I asked if there were any classes in high school that prepared her for the academy. She quickly responded, “BAND!” Band had prepared her to learn formations and instructions useful in drills. Many thanks to the Lee’s Summit School District for preparing our daughter for college and the real world!

Submitted by Glenna and Gary Osborn

Family is thankful for Parents As Teachers, Great Beginnings

When our daughter was born our Parents As Teachers parent educator, Kari Wilcox, was the amazing support we never knew we needed. When our son came along four years later we had a totally different parenting experience. He was a different eater, different sleeper, etc. We found we still needed Kari. When he was 18 months old, we had a nagging concern with some areas of his development. Kari helped us see what was part of normal development and what might not be. She arranged his evaluation, which was difficult due to the timing of his birthday. It turned out he had a significant delay in the area of understanding (among other things) and qualified for Great Beginnings. Within a few weeks at his new school (many thanks to Beth Stratton, Donna Boucher and Jill Kounkel), he was like a different child. We see huge improvements daily. We’re so happy we didn’t listen to people who said we were overreacting! We have an amazing group of people who care about our son, and we can’t imagine what we would do without them! We’re so thankful for the amazing Parents as Teachers and Great Beginnings programs. Submitted by Chris and Tammy Wollerman

Tough year for fifth-grader turns fantastic thanks to Meadow Lane teacher

The Story Project features personal stories about our students and their accomplishments in school. If you would like to submit a story about your child, visit A story from the R-7 Parents As Teachers program follows. Before my daughter Kate began her fifth-grade year at Meadow Lane Elementary she was unenthusiastic about returning to school. For weeks prior to school starting, she would complain about summer’s end. This was the first time she was not excited about school. Upon discovering that Mrs. Susan Phillips was her teacher, Kate’s negative comments decreased and an occasional positive remark was made. After Meet the Teacher night, Kate finally said she was eager for school to begin. Mrs. Phillips had eased Kate’s concerns regarding ASPIRE and the fifth-grade expectations. As the weeks went on, I continued to hear more and more positive comments from Kate about time spent in Mrs. Phillips’ classroom. “Mrs. Phillips is so funny! She treats us like fifth graders! She looked through the book order with us; it was so cool!” These are just a few of the many encouraging remarks Kate has said. Mrs. Phillips turned what I believed was going to be a tough year into a fantastic one. I am incredibly grateful! She is just one of many AMAZING teachers Kate has had at Meadow Lane Elementary. Thank you Mrs. Phillips and the incredible MLE staff for academically and emotionally enriching Kate’s life! Submitted by Kerri Kay

Parent educator is a blessing to young family

When I became a mother, I was overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that came with this new role. Alli was colicky and refused to sleep. I hated to hear her cry. Through the Parents as Teachers program, our parent educator, Kari Wilcox, was my guiding light. She calmly helped me tackle each issue and truly helped me define my role in Alli’s life. Her guidance and reassurance were such as blessing during this transitional phase of our lives. From Tricia Snow.

Underwood Elementary works closely with family to help child be successful

Lana Snyder was my son’s first grade teacher at Underwood Elementary. It was a challenging year for him as he was smart, yet high energy and very social. Just when you were sure he wasn’t paying attention, he could repeat almost verbatim what was said. Good for him, but not so good for the other students or the teacher. Mrs. Snyder communicated with me early and often. We formulated a plan. One particular day Mrs. Snyder was working with the kids, all seated on the carpet facing the front of the room, with my son on the front row being very social. I quietly snuck in and seated myself at a nearby table. After about five minutes, it was brought to his attention that I was there. I’ve never seen a first grader with such great posture as he quickly straightened up! It is true that actions speak louder than words. Mrs. Snyder allowed for that first-grade experience to be a turning point for me and my son. He knows I will follow through when I tell him I am happy to go to school with him and, as a ninth grader, that is not very appealing!.

Summit Lakes Middle School welcomes new student, creating a smooth transition

We moved from a very small town to Lee’s Summit this year. Our daughter Ashley is very shy, so we were nervous for her transition into seventh grade at a new, much larger school. The teachers at Summit Lakes Middle School were amazing at making her feel welcome and comfortable. Mr. Carr went out of his way to check in on her and make sure she was doing OK those first couple of days. This made me feel at ease when sending her off to school on the days following. She also had a very helpful and sweet classmate in her homeroom who Ashley clung to those first few days. She helped Ashley meet new friends and made walking between classes more fun. Ashley has adjusted well, is excelling in her classes and loved this first quarter. We are looking forward to the years ahead!

Submitted by Christina and Kevin Lint - 11/8/12