East Choir Director Ken Foley has been chosen as the Shawnee Mission School District’s nominee for Teacher of the Year.
According to Associate Principal Jeff Storey, one teacher is nominated by the administrative staff from each secondary school in the district. That teacher is then pitted against teachers chosen from other Shawnee Mission high schools, and one candidate is ultimately selected to represent the secondary education system of the entire district.
“Our superintendent asked that each building nominate an outstanding member of the faculty who would represent the school,” Storey said. “We looked at a lot of different variables — how they reach the students, the dynamic of the classroom.”
Storey characterized the nomination process as informal: most of the judging was completed by the administration, but requests from department chairs were also taken into consideration. The announcement that Foley had been selected was made earlier this week. Foley was surprised when he learned he had been chosen.
“I was really honored. I was sort of shocked, because there are a lot of amazing teachers, so I was surprised that I was chosen not only for our building but to get this nomination from the whole district, that’s really something,” Foley said. “I really hope I can represent the school well.”
Foley has been teaching for 26 years. Although Storey joined the East administrative staff less than a year ago, he is already able to see through his observations of classes that Foley is an outstanding teacher.
“He’s very enthusiastic, and he gives a lot of himself to the school.” Storey said. “You really see it when you’re observing classes, you see it on the faces of the students. He’s really well-rounded and brings a lot to our staff and to our school.”
Junior Clara Martin, a member Chambers, says she views Foley not only as teacher but as a friend.
“He’s very patient, and he relates really well to the students. He makes friends with the students, and we respect him a lot,” Martin said. “He’s just a really good instructor. He has a tough job teaching hundreds of students. He does a lot of work and he cares about what he does. Everything about him is unique.”
For Foley, making sure the students learn is still the most important part of his job. He values the relationships he builds with students every year and says he remains close with students he taught even 15 years ago.