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Ritenour Announces 2024 Top District Awards

The Ritenour “prize patrol” surprised four top Ritenour staff members on March 11 in their schools to announce that they’ve been selected as the 2024 top district employees: Ritenour Diamond Circle Teacher of the Year, Employee of the Year, Make A Difference Award honoree and First Class Teacher. The prize patrol also recognized this year’s Stepping Up Award winner.

Sherita Ming, a fourth grade teacher at Iveland Elementary, is the district’s 2024 Diamond Circle Teacher of the Year. Juana Pintor, the daytime lead custodian at Iveland, is the 2024 Diamond Circle Employee of the Year.  Brian Chance, a Special School District teacher for Ritenour’s Rebound program at Ritenour High School is the Make A Difference Award honoree and Emily Hahn, a sixth grade English language arts teacher at Hoech Middle School, is the district’s First Class Teacher. 

In addition, Aurora McCandless, a Husky alumna, is the recipient of the district’s Stepping Up Award. This award, which debuted in 2023, recognizes Ritenour support staff members who have gone the extra mile toward earning teaching certification and are now serving students in the classroom. 

Aurora McCandless

McCandless earned her teacher’s certifications in secondary education for math and science while serving Ritenour as a long-term substitute teacher in the 2022-2023 school year. She is now teaching physical science at RHS.

The top four district awards are given to Ritenour teachers and staff who best exemplify the district’s commitment to quality education and service. Iveland Elementary is the first Ritenour school to have both the Ritenour Diamond Circle Teacher of the Year and the Diamond Circle Employee of the Year at the same time.

As the district’s Teacher of the Year, Ming will compete against other teachers statewide for the Missouri State Teacher of the Year Award. Although Ming has been an educator for nearly 28 years, she didn’t join Iveland until 2020. She currently is the school’s professional development chair, has been the building teacher leader for summer school, and is a teacher for the after-school math club. 

Sherita Ming

“Ms. Ming builds strong relationships with her students, and leverages those relationships and effective teaching strategies to help her students meet their goals,” said Iveland Principal Amanda Connelly. “In addition, she communicates often with her students’ families to keep them engaged with what their children are learning in the classroom. She also is highly respected by her colleagues and brings positive energy and creative ideas into many of our meetings and conversations. 

As Diamond Circle Employee of the Year, Pintor is known for going above and beyond at her job and who can always bring a smile to students and staff. As the only full-time Iveland staff member who speaks fluent Spanish, the school’s Spanish-speaking students’ eyes light up when they see her because they know she will speak to them in their home language.  

Juana Pintor

Regardless of the tasks she has at hand Pintor makes it a priority to make sure everyone is greeted with a smile and greeting.

“Juana is such a joy to have in our building,” said Connelly. “She not only does her job well and with a smile, but she brings joy to everyone in our building every single day.” 

One of her nominators commented, “Juana is my favorite part of every morning. She always stops by to say hello and ask how I am doing. She comes to my room to check on my plants and always asks if I need help watering them or if she can help in any way in my room. She is like this with all staff members as well.”

The Make A Difference Award annually recognizes a staff member who goes above and beyond in meeting the needs of the whole child. Chance has been an SSD teacher at Ritenour High School since 2022, after spending two years at Marvin Elementary. Since he began the Rebound program, which focuses on students with individual education plans (IEPs) to help them in a credit recovery program so they can earn all their needed credits to graduate. His tireless work and the many hours he devotes to his students at school, in the evenings and on weekends has led to a significant increase in the graduation rate of Ritenour students with IEPs. 

Brian Chance

“Brian has worked tirelessly to support students with disabilities to achieve their goals of graduating high school, said Angi Fouste, SSD Special Education director in Ritenour.  “In his first year of running this new program, the graduation rate for students with IEPs rose from 62% in 2021 to 79% in 2022. Brian builds relationships with students which makes their success possible.”

Nathan Dwyer, SSD’s coordinator at RHS, said Chance’s positive attitude and work ethic are models for others at RHS. 

“Mr. Chance has a true passion for his work that is contagious to others in the building,” said Dwyer. “His willingness to invest extra time and effort in understanding each student's unique needs sets him apart as a truly exceptional educator. His dedication does not go unnoticed and makes a significant difference in the lives of our students, both academically and personally.”

One of Chance’s nominators shared, “He takes the time to get to know each student personally, understands their unique strengths and challenges, and tailors plans accordingly.”

Ritenour’s First-Class teacher traditionally honors an outstanding first- or second-year teacher.  Hahn is in her second year of teaching at Hoech.   

Ms. Hahn

“Ms. Hahn has quickly learned how to be a trauma-responsive educator,” said Hoech Principal Dr. Alexander Terrance. “She creates a safe space for her students to share ideas and to be the best versions of themselves. Because she spends time at the beginning of the year building trust among her students, they learn how to create positive social interactions and can have a better academic experience.” 

In January, the district announced Diamond Circle Teachers at the building level. Awardees are selected each year by colleagues in their buildings. This year’s honorees are:

  • Ritenour School for Early Childhood Education - Valerie Stanfill, preschool
  • Buder Elementary - Emily Gabrisch, fourth grade 
  • Iveland Elementary - Sherita Ming, fourth grade
  • Kratz Elementary - Lauren Openlander, third grade
  • Marion Elementary - Dr. Meggan Bruner, third grade
  • Marvin Elementary - Amanda Bush, fifth grade
  • Wyland Elementary - Ted Grabner, physical education and health
  • Hoech Middle School - Maggie Drummond, seventh grade science
  • Ritenour Middle School - Abigail Knoche, orchestra 
  • International Welcome Center - Dr. Lisa Thompson, English learner teacher
  • Ritenour High School -  Matt Elder, physical education and health

​​​All award recipients, as well as staff who have served in Ritenour for 25 years and our 2023-2024 retirees, will be recognized at the district’s annual Honors Dinner on Thursday, April 25 at the Ritenour Auditorium.