Pittsburg USD 250 officials think a couple of its teachers have gone above the call of duty this semester and want to reward their hard work.

Pittsburg USD 250 officials think a couple of its teachers have gone above the call of duty this semester and want to reward their hard work.

This year the district nominated two teachers for the 2011 Kansas Horizon Award, which is designed to recognize outstanding teaching in elementary and secondary classrooms around the state. The KHA is sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education and aims to identify and recognize “first-year teachers who perform in a way that distinguishes them as outstanding.”

This year’s nominees for the KHA are Lakeside Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Haley Bugni, and Pittsburg High School debate and forensics coach Julie Jones. Jones also teaches beginning speech and theater courses at PHS.

Both teachers are recent graduates of Pittsburg State University and joined the at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year.

Superintendent Destry Brown said Bugni and Jones stood out from “a strong group of teachers.

“They’re both promising young teachers and we felt like they had skills that were deserving,” Brown said. “We’re proud of their hard work and accomplisments so far.”

The KHA is a regional competition divided to the state’s four U.S. congressional districts.

Committees select four elementary classroom teachers and four secondary classroom teachers per region, for a total of 32 teachers.

“I think it gives us an opportunty to recognize some of our teachers who are working hard and doing a good job for our kids,” Brown said.

Bugni, a former sprinter on the Pitt State track team and whose mother is a teacher, said she was inspired to follow in her footsteps from an early age.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher before I went to college,” Bugni said. “My mom was a teacher, and I saw the things she did and got to experience. That motivated me to want to have that same impact on children’s lives. It’s a real honor to be thought of for this recognition.”

Lakeside Principal Courtney McCartney was not available for comment, but said in a statement that Bugni is “willing to jump in and tackle anything."

“As a runner Haley has brought this philosophy to her classroom,” McCartney said. “She is capable of going the distance by keeping a steady pace with her students and understands that it takes for some a long distance to achieve. She is reaching towards her potential as a leader...”

Teaching was always a passion of Bugni’s. But Jones said she pulled the figurative trigger only recently. A former broadcasting major at Coffeyville Community College, Jones said she “never wanted to be a teacher.”

But after a year of college her priorities shifted. Jones said she remembered how much fun she had competing in debate and forensics in high school in Coffeyville, and had a revelation.

“It hit me that, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be a teacher,’” said Jones, who became to first person in her family to become a professional educator. “I don’t teach because everyone in my family is a teacher. I don’t teach because I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I teach because I want to. I love it.”

Principal Jon Bishop said Jones was an obvious choice for nomination.

“Miss Jones has the willingness and desire to go the extra distance for her students,” Bishop said. “She makes positive connections with her students and allows them to grow academically.”

Jones said she is excited by the nomination.

“This is very cool,” Jones said. “I feel very honored ... because teaching is something I love.”