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Back to Back Horizon Winners

Jan. 23—VALLEY CENTER — Two teachers at Valley Center High School have a lot in common. They both have roots in the Great Bend school system and both teach secondary school classes at Valley Center High School.

And, as of last week, both are recipients of the Kansas Department of Education's Horizon Award.

The award is given annually to 16 elementary and 16 secondary first-year teachers, from nominations received from the state's 287 school districts. The award is meant to recognize excellence in education, through preparation of classes and teaching skills as well as professional development, leadership and student growth.

This year's Horizon class includes Morgan Kaiser, who teaches business at Valley Center. The school now has back-to-back recipients, with English teacher Aaron Miller winning the award in 2023.

Morgan Kaiser

Kaiser was born and raised in Great Bend, the daughter of Brenda and Leonard Kaiser. Beginning at Holy Family grade school, she advanced through Great Bend Middle School and eventually Great Bend High School.

"In high school, I stayed pretty busy with anything that interested me," Kaiser noted. In athletics, she was a swimmer, cheerleader and on the dance line. Her organizations included Pep Club, Kayettes, National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and student ambassadors.

In college at Kansas State University, she was involved with Quest and Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

In 2022, she accepted a position as business teacher (with classes in personal finance, career and life planning, computer programming and marketing) pep club sponsor and DECA club sponsor.

"I will be the first to say that being a teacher was definitely not on my radar when I entered college," Kaiser said. "Being in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) in high school really opened my eyes up to the business world and all the opportunities it presented. I then thought that business would be a great career path to enter into at college ... so that's what I did."

The teaching bug bit her when she was a college junior.

"I started education classes and had a tremendous mentor who was a business teacher at Manhattan High School at the time," Kaiser said. "She, as well as many others, guided me through college, telling me the ups, downs, and in-betweens of the world of education. This is really where I found my passion of teaching the content area of business.

"Although I didn't always dream of being a teacher, I have some pretty prominent leaders and teachers in my life that have made a huge impact on me and encouraged me to be the teacher I am today," Kaiser explained. "My Grandpa Morgenstern was an agriculture teacher at Great Bend High School for many years and I now also have two other cousins who are elementary school teachers. Additionally, my parents have taught me a ton throughout my life and guided me so much."

Aaron Miller

Miller was already teaching at Valley Center when Kaiser arrived. Although they attended different colleges (Miller attended Wichita State University) they were classmates at Holy Family in Great Bend.

Miller's English instruction embraces many forms, he said.

"My goal for each day is to accommodate each type of learner in my classroom and ensure that I am teaching to the style they learn best. One of my strengths as a teacher is the ability to build relationships with students. I am a firm believer that students do not learn from people they do not like. Through getting to know my students, I am able to accomplish so much with them in terms of content."

Miller is currently pursuing a Master's of Education degree with a reading specialist emphasis from Fort Hays State University. Additionally, he serves on the Social Emotional Learning committee for USD 262, where he helps teachers in the district incorporate SEL practices into their classrooms.