COLUMBIA — As faculty guided the stampede of Jefferson Junior High students through the auditorium's small doors on Monday, it seemed like a pep assembly.
School athletes wearing their Cyclone uniforms sat on the edge of the elevated stage facing the audience of other students, teachers and parents. The students called to their friends across the room, joking and laughing.
Principal Gregery Caine settled them down before he introduced representatives of the NEA Foundation, who were there to present the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence to math teacher Kathy Steinhoff. She is one of five teachers nationally to get the award this year and the first teacher from Missouri to receive it.
As the students cheered, applauded and whistled, Steinhoff accepted an oversized check made out for $10,000.
In her acceptance speech, Steinhoff insisted she was only a small piece of the puzzle at Jefferson Junior.
“I’m surrounded everyday by excellent teachers,” she said. "I don’t stand out from any of them.”
Steinhoff was nominated by the Columbia Missouri National Education Association and underwent state and national interviews. In Washington, D.C., the last step of the process, Steinhoff also taught a 20-minute lesson.
The hoopla isn’t quite over for Steinhoff. She will be recognized at a gala in Washington on Feb. 11. At the event, one of the five Horace Mann recipients will receive the NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence, which comes with $25,000.
“It won’t just be me receiving this recognition,” Steinhoff said of the coming gala. “All of the teachers at Jeff Junior will be there with me in spirit.”