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Top teachers put students first

Most of us can recall a favorite teacher or two, gifted individuals who profoundly affected our lives.

These were the men and women who loved and lived their calling. They encouraged us to participate, challenged us to do more than we thought we could and dared us to make a difference in the world.

They went above and beyond, often sacrificing their time and even money to ensure that their students received the best guidance they could provide.

We never forget those teachers. No matter how many years go by or how many miles may come between us and the classrooms where they taught, their influence will never leave us.

We’re confident that Kelli Whisenhunt and Jeannene Abney have earned such status.

Whisenhunt — an EXPO teacher at Ginnings Elementary School — and Abney — a theater arts teacher at Ryan High School — were named the Denton school district’s top educators in elementary and secondary schools, respectively.

They were honored Tuesday at the district’s annual Jostens Teacher of the Year program and will now represent the district in the region’s teacher of the year competition, coordinated by the Region XI Service Center in Fort Worth.

We congratulate them on being named the district’s top teachers, and we also commend the individuals who were named teachers of the year at the 32 Denton ISD schools. Each of these educators was also honored Tuesday.

Choosing the top two teachers from among such a field of candidates must have been a tough job, and we don’t envy those who had the responsibility.

Seven members from the district’s Teachers Communications Committee, which serves as a liaison between the various campuses and the administration, reviewed applications and resumes of teacher of the year nominees before selecting the district’s top elementary and secondary educators, Vicki Storrie, the committee’s chairwoman told us.

Members of the committee, she said, decide “who they feel are the most worthy candidates based on experience, philosophy, accomplishments.” The winners, she added, are those who talk about students and the impact they want to make on their lives — those who participate in continuing education and are active in the community.

Both of the honorees have been pursuing their passion for teaching for nearly three decades and have earned high marks from their fellow educators.

Missey Chavez, principal at Ginnings Elementary, called Whisenhunt the backbone of the school and a true inspiration. Whisenhunt was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and never missed a day of school while battling the disease, Chavez told us.

Abney was recognized last year by the University Interscholastic League with the Sponsor Excellence Award, and she was also one of the first inductees into the Texas State Thespians Hall of Fame.

Principal Vernon Reeves said Abney is someone who’s given students multiple options at experiencing success through the programs she teaches. Reeves said Abney gets students involved and helps them gain an appreciation for the arts.

We thank these fine teachers for setting an outstanding example for their students — and the rest of us — to follow.

Your leadership and service are greatly appreciated.