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Paola USD 368



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Congratulations to both of you!!







PAOLA USD 368, 2023 Elementary Teacher of the Year

Mrs. Oakley is currently in her 18th year of teaching and her 16th teaching at Sunflower Elementary School.  Mrs. Oakley teaches fifth grade.  She creates a positive environment where students feel safe, valued, loved and confident in themselves, and are given grace.  She makes sure to teach the whole child by instilling a love of learning.  Mrs. Oakley strives to get her students engaged in their learning by being active, celebrating successes, and having fun.  Mrs. Oakley states, “The role of an educator has changed over the years.  It’s not just about teaching academics anymore.  A typical day for me includes being a nurse, counselor, cheerleader, and expert in reading, writing, math, and social studies.  This is in addition to being a role model, redirecting meltdowns, and teaching impromptu lessons on life skills." 



Sydney Goldman Secondary Teacher of the Year



PAOLA USD 368, 2023 Secondary Teacher of the Year

Miss Goldman is currently in her 6th year of teaching at Paola Middle School as the art teacher.  According to Miss Goldman, “The foundation of my teaching philosophy boils down to one thing: relationships.”  She sponsors a weekly after-school Art Club.  Her students have had their work shown in yearly art shows at the middle school, Kansas Art Educators Association’s annual show, and the Next Generation Art Show hosted by Miami County Medical Center.  Miss Goldman strives to foster a love of learning through the arts, which in turn increases success in other academic areas. 

Being selected as the USD 368 Teachers of the Year qualifies both Mrs. Oakley and Miss Goldman to compete for the 2024 Kansas Teacher of the Year.  Congratulations to both of them for everything they do for our students and representing all the great teachers that are a part of the Paola School District.







Congratulations to both of you!!



 Ashley Blackman Cottonwood Elementary TOY



Ashley Blackman is an educator in USD 368. Blackman teaches second grade social studies and science at Cottonwood Elementary and third grade science at Sunflower Elementary in Paola, Kansas. Blackman has a Master of Science degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a minor in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) from Emporia State University. Blackman received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Emporia State University.

Blackman aspires to grow her curriculum by integrating more local farmers, museums, current events, experts and businesses into her lessons to build relevance and demonstrate future career options for her students. Furthermore, Blackman enjoys pushing herself as a learner by integrating technology in order to help students demonstrate their learning and build their metacognition.

When not at school, Blackman stays involved in her church leading vacation bible school and participating in a women’s bible study. When not teaching her students, Blackman is teaching her own children, ages 5, 2, and a newborn. Blackman enjoys taking her children to historic and art museums, zoos, libraries, bands, plays, and more. It’s a rare sight to see her inside her house. If she’s there, there’s a good chance that there’s a blanket fort for a day of reading, messy baking, a science or art activity, or a dance party inside. 

Most importantly, the base foundation to Blackman’s teaching style is a growth mindset. As shown at the end of Blackman’s emails, she believes and teaches “if you learn to love challenges, you will always be growing!”


Misty Pratt--8th Grade Teacher PMS


Misty Pratt is the current 8th grade English teacher at Paola Middle School in Paola, KS.  In December of 1999, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Kansas State University.  Pratt then started her career as a 2nd-grade teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School, in Paola, KS, where she taught for 14 years. After a few years break from teaching, she started teaching 8th grade in 2017 and has taught at the Middle School for the last 5 years.  At Paola Middle School she actively participates in several committees that benefit not only the school community but the students she loves.  Some of those committees are; the Middle School Site Council, Leadership Committee, the 8th-grade team lead, a mentor for new teachers, and a member of the Reading Intervention Committee where she is helping to initiate the state plan for dyslexia intervention.  As an active learner and educator, she is always working to learn new strategies and skills to better not only herself but her students who hold a special place in her heart.

When Pratt started teaching 19 years ago, she had a mentor whom always told her, "get them to love you, they will do anything for you."  To this day, Pratt loves going by this motto because caring about her students is important to her.  Even though there are hard days at school, Pratt says, "the students in my classes are what keep me going after a long day of hard work, as well as a little caffeine."  Pratt also stated that, "she loves watching them progress in their studies, grow physically and mentally, and achieve their goals."  One of the most important things to her, Pratt says, "is building relationships with students and showing them that you care."  From this local recognition Pratt was nominated for State Teacher of the Year and in March of 2022 was recognized as a Region 2 semi-finalist.