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G.E.M. Award Recipient

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Congratulations to the Jolene Patton and Anitta Staats USD 320's G.E.M. award recipients


I am honored to nominate two staff for the USD 320 G.E.M. award. The reason I am nominating both of these staff members at the same time is because they are truly a “team” at West Elementary and I can’t think of one without thinking of the other. The nominees are Jolene Patton and Anitta Staats, Reading Assistants at West Elementary School. These two ladies are truly remarkable in so many ways and they go above and beyond the call of duty DAILY for our students, staff, and school.


Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Staats are Reading Assistants, which means that they teach Guided Reading groups to students in third, fourth, and fifth grades. They each see at least 9 reading groups per day, but they do so much more than this. While they are considered “Classified Staff” and are not paid on the teacher salary schedule, they most definitely plan for instruction and deliver instruction daily. However, they do much more than teach these 9 daily reading groups.


Every morning, Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Staats arrive to school around 7:15am and provide morning duty supervision. They look at this opportunity with students to provide valuable life lessons, like saying “please” and “thank you” and teaching them manners that they can apply in any area of their lives. This month, they have started a “30 Days of Kindness” project and are helping students complete “random acts of kindness” throughout the building and in their interactions with others. They have created a culture in the mornings where students learn valuable life lessons, but also have the opportunity to interact with their peers and friends. They have posted signs by all of our exits to remind students that “kindness matters” and to encourage them to say “please” and “thank you”. The level of respect shown by our students has increased from the encouragement, direct instruction, and support provided by Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Staats.


Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Staats attend our Professional Development days and have worked very hard to learn as much as they can about Guided Reading, reading comprehension strategies, and successful instructional strategies in general. Their lessons are high quality and our students thoroughly enjoy going to their classrooms. Recently, they invited retired USD 320 Elementary Counselor and author, Dr. Nolan Carlson, to their classes for him to share more about the children’s books he authored. Each student received a complimentary book from Dr. Carlson and thoroughly enjoyed his visit.


First quarter, students in fifth grade reading groups read Vagabond Jack by local Wamego author, Dr. Nolan Carlson.  Dr. Carlson is retired from Central and West Elementary Schools as the school counselor.  Dr. Carlson generously donated a number of his books to West Elementary for use in the library and reading classrooms. Both Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Staats are using these books with their reading groups.  


As the final activity of the study of Vagabond Jack, Dr. Carlson made an author visit to Mrs. Staats’ classroom.  He shared with students the research and preparation he did to make the story of the wolf dog, Jack, as realistic as possible.  He also shared the other books that he has authored.  The students prepared questions for Dr. Carlson, and he signed a copy of Vagabond Jack for each of the students. The students loved having this opportunity to talk with a real author and we appreciate the efforts that Mrs. Staats and Mrs. Patton put forth to provide this experience.


Beyond the work they do in their own classrooms, both Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Staats provide additional support in the regular classrooms during math instruction. They also help cover lunch and recess duty daily. With our ongoing issue of providing substitute teachers for teacher absences, Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Staats have subbed in about every classroom we have at West Elementary on numerous occasions and are always willing and ready to help in any way needed. They are extremely flexible to help meet the needs of others and put our students and staff before their own needs. They drop what they are doing at a moment’s notice to step up and help others. This has happened many times, when teachers call in sick due to a sudden illness for themselves or their children.


We are so grateful to have Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Staats on our team at West Elementary School and cannot thank them enough for their selflessness, generosity, positivity,  and “can do” attitudes. They are simply the best.



The third-grade team would be honored to nominate Jolene Patton and Anitta Staats for the GEM Award. They exemplify the true meaning of “going the extra mile”.  On a daily basis, they go above and beyond their expected duties to make our school climate at West Elementary warm and inviting for students and staff. They have implemented several new campaigns this year such as “Courtesy Counts” and “Kindness Matters”. These ladies take an ordinary duty, such as morning duty, that most people dread doing and turn it into an opportunity to inspire kids! It is evident that both of these women were born to serve children; they are able to form lasting relationships with students because they go out of their way to form special bonds. They even use their lunch breaks as an opportunity to sit in the lunchroom and eat lunch with students. In addition to making the most out of their morning duty and lunchtime, Anitta and Jolene go above and beyond during their recess duty. Every day as students line up after recess Jolene leads them in chanting a positive and enthusiastic cheer to prepare them for entering the building. During times when students have to stay inside for recess, Anitta encourages students to be creative and even takes the time to ask them about their creations and take pictures.

The teachers at West truly appreciate Mrs. Patton’s and Mrs. Staats’ flexible and helpful mindset. When they are called on to help cover classes or to substitute teach at the last minute, they don’t even blink an eye. They step up and are more than willing to help! They care so much about serving the students, they have even taken math teacher guides home with them the night before they are asked to sub, just so they can feel prepared to deliver a high-quality lesson!

Their dedication to literacy and reading instruction is so evident; they spend a lot of time preparing highly engaging reading lessons for students. They have brought in outside resources such as local authors to reinforce concepts in their guided reading groups. They spend numerous hours outside the school day preparing lessons for the nine different guided reading groups they teach each day. They help instill the love of reading with their students through their enthusiasm of the texts that are read in their classroom.

In all of this, what stands out the most is how selfless and dedicated Jolene and Anitta are. They have intentionally chosen to take every single aspect of their job and make it meaningful for students. They set an example for all staff in our school of how an extra bit positivity, enthusiasm, and unconditional love can make a tremendous difference in students’ lives. Our school is a better place because of these two incredible women.


Thanks to our sponsors:

Gene’s Heartland Foods

Paramour Coffee            

Friendship House

Brown Chevrolet Buick

Gambino’s Pizza

Spirits of 76

Short Stop