In the meantime, Cornett said, she is excited about teaching third grade at Eugene Field Elementary School, 720 Tremont Ave., Ottawa.
The second-year teacher’s enthusiasm inside and outside of the classroom was apparent to her peers and administrators who nominated Cornett as the Ottawa school district’s elementary classroom teacher candidate for the statewide 2014 Horizon award.
The Kansas Cable Telecommunications Horizon Award recognizes a select group of first-year teachers from across the state who demonstrate excellence in the classroom. The 2014 award honors first-year teachers from the 2012-2013 school year.
Classroom management, pacing and curriculum — all areas that first-year teachers sometimes struggle with — came very naturally and through a lot of hard work for Cornett, Shannon Fanning, Eugene Field principal, said.
“She needed much less support than a normal fist-year teacher,” Fanning said. “Her kids are very highly engaged and active participants in their learning. She really gets what teaching is about.”
A group of Ottawa school district staff members, administrators and academic coaches looked at the pool of first-year teachers to select one as the district’s nominee for the Horizon award, Fanning said.
The Kansas Department of Education is expected to appoint regional selection committees responsible for reviewing the nomination forms and selecting a group of four elementary classroom teachers and four secondary classroom teachers in each of the state’s four regions, which correspond with the state’s four U.S. congressional districts, according to the competition rules. The winning teachers are to be individually recognized during a luncheon at the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network conference Feb. 21 in Topeka.
Fanning thought Cornett received the nomination over a group of talented teachers because “her classroom is very focused on learning. There is a good flow, and the kids are highly engaged,” she said.
Cornett, 26, was shocked by the news, she said.
“It was a Friday afternoon, and I thought, ‘Oh, gosh. [Principal Fanning] wants me in her office. What’s going on?’ Then I found out and thought, ‘Whew. I can take a deep breath,’” Cornett said, laughing.
In all seriousness, Cornett said, she was honored to be the district’s elementary teacher nominee.
“I know there was a big pool of first-year teachers last year, and just to be nominated feels awesome,” she said.
Cornett, who grew up on a farm in the Fontana area and earned her teaching degree from Emporia State University in 2010, credits her interest in teaching to her older sister, Niki Cash, who teaches kindergarten in the Paola school district.
The most rewarding part of teaching, Cornett said, is the look on children’s faces when they understand what is being taught.
“That light bulb moment when the child gets it — whether it’s right then in that lesson or two weeks down the road — [is gratifying],” Cornett said. “It’s making that connection. I’m thankful for those light bulb moments.”
One of the most challenging aspects of teaching for Cornett is fitting in all the reading and math lessons — while incorporating science, social studies and writing — into a short school day, she said.
“Eight hours seems like a long time, but it’s not,” Cornett said. “It has to start with management. Do we have a routine and structure? That’s very important to me.”
In addition to helping students improve their personal skills, Cornett said, another important aspect of education is teaching students how to work together and collaborate on projects.
During her student teaching in the Olathe school district, Cornett said, she observed that the good teachers had a flow to their classrooms.
“I learned that I had to get my groove down so that the kids know the schedule and how everything goes,” she said.
Though she grew up on a farm, Cornett said, she had no aspirations of pursuing an agriculture-related career.
“I was allergic to the outside,” Cornett, who has four sisters, said, laughing. “I drove the truck to pick up people, but that was about it.”
Cornett would like to further her education and become a school counselor some day, she said.
“I would like to go into counseling,” she said. “You get to see a little more variety of kids, and I would enjoy working with them and helping them out.”