Geary County Schools announces Fall 2021 Shining Star Award recipients

GEARY COUNTY, Kan. — Geary County Schools USD 475 announced on Friday the recipients of the Fall 2021 Shining Star Award. The award is presented to Geary County Schools staff members who have been employed for at least two years by the district and demonstrate excellence in their job performance.

The Fall 2021 recipients include:

  • Chantay Caron, special education teacher at Morris Hill Elementary School
  • Jacob McCallister, third-grade teacher at Westwood Elementary School
  • Laura Thompson, speech-language pathologist at Ware Elementary School
  • David Wild, chief operations officer for Geary County Schools
  • Jamie Williams, eighth-grade math teacher at Junction City Middle School

Chantay Caron, special education teacher at Morris Hill Elementary School

Shining Star Award Recipient Chantay Caron alongside Superintendent Dr. Reginald Eggleston.

Chantay Caron has proved to be an exceptional special education teacher, leader, and friend, serving on many building committees, and doing a remarkable job in those positions. Caron makes it look easy to meet the needs of her students exceptionally, always being willing to research and learn new strategies for each of her students. Due to her leadership skills and the purposeful and effective strategies Caron has put in place inside her classroom, students have minimal behavior problems, resulting in a low turnover rate of paraprofessionals. Caron also focuses on communicating her students’ needs with her team, as well as her students’ parents.

Caron was recognized at the Nov. 1 Board of Education meeting by Dr. Eggleston and Morris Hill Elementary School Principal Melisa Burgess.

“Her unselfish character motivates others to do their best,” Morris Hill Elementary School Principal Melisa Burgess said. “She has truly been a blessing for our school.”

Jacob McCallister, third-grade teacher at Westwood Elementary School

Shining Star Award Recipient Jacob McCallister, alongside Dr. Eggleston and Westwood Elementary School Principal Kimberly Dressman.

Being born and raised in Junction City, Jacob McCallister often relates to his students in his upbringing and love for the area. Having served as both a general education teacher and a district-level STEM coach, McCallister made the decision to return to Westwood Elementary School, the school in which he attended, to advocate and set high expectations for his students. McCallister works hard to develop relationships with his students and collaborate with his colleagues, working as a leader inside and outside of the classroom.

McCallister was recognized at the Nov. 1 Board of Education meeting by Dr. Eggleston.

“Just swing by Westwood at the end of day dismissal. Students from all grades wave and say goodbye to Mr. McCallister, and not just his third graders,” Junction City Middle School ELA Teacher Karen Bender said, whom McCallister served as a mentor and teaching partner to. “Jacob McCallister has already and will continue to shine, no doubt.”

Laura Thompson, speech-language pathologist at Ware Elementary School

Laura Thompson continuously goes above and beyond for her students and colleagues, always willing to work with a student and their teacher if any speech or language concerns arise. Serving as the leader of the district’s Speech Department, a member of the district’s Special Education Leadership Team, a member of the Kansas Special Education Advisory Council, and a mentor to future speech-language pathologists, Thompson uses her expertise to help the district and community in making an impact on its students.

Thompson was recognized at the Nov. 1 Board of Education meeting by Dr. Eggleston.

“Her genuine love for the students, staff, and the job is above and beyond,” said Ivory Beins, a kindergarten teacher at Ware Elementary School. “Laura is the model of what a Shining Star Award recipient should be.”

David Wild, chief operations officer for Geary County Schools

Shining Star Award Recipient David Wild alongside Dr. Eggleston.

David Wild has been an instrumental part of the developments happening across the district, including the new, state-of-the-art Junction City High School. Working with the community, business, and development partners for years, Wild resiliently had the facility up and running for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. Other vital projects to the district Wild have overseen include partnering with cleaning service provider ABM, working with Cenergistic to save millions of dollars in energy usage, the 2021 Playground Replacement Project, and the building of a new elementary school on Fort Riley.

Wild was recognized at the Nov. 1 Board of Education meeting by Dr. Eggleston.

“If it wasn’t for Mr. Wild’s hard work and endurance over the past few years, our district would not have the opportunities we now have,” Superintendent Dr. Reginald Eggleston said. “Thanks to Mr. Wild, our district and community is now a better place to learn, to live, and to grow.”

Jamie Williams, eighth-grade math teacher at Junction City Middle School

Shining Star Award Recipient Jamie Williams, alongside Dr. Eggleston, Junction City Middle School Teachers Karissa Hammock and Nancy Campbell, and Junction City Middle School Principal Heather Oentrich.

Jamie Williams is an extraordinary math teacher, striving to make connections, create engaging and rigorous lessons, collaborate on content at both the team and building level, and continuously grow. Having taught both sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, Williams often asks herself “How can I love these kids, and get them where they need to be?” Although math is her passion, Williams understands the importance of understanding her students on all different levels, so she recently received her ELL certification through Kansas State University’s Project INSIGHT grant. Jamie knows the impact a good education has on those facing unfortunate situations and works to advocate for those struggling students.

Williams was recognized at the Nov. 1 Board of Education meeting by Dr. Eggleston and Principal Oentrich.

“Jamie reminds me why I am here,” said Nancy Campbell, Junction City Middle School ELA teacher. “Jamie’s example of grace, consistent love, and continuous improvement makes me look in the mirror and say, ‘Be more like Jamie.'”

Each Shining Star Award recipient was recognized at the Nov. 1 Board of Education meeting to thank them for all that they do each and every day.

For media inquiries, please contact Lindley Lund, marketing and media specialist for Geary County Schools USD 475, at lindleylund@usd475.org.