by Joe Bollig
LENEXA — A veteran teacher with a “dogged work ethic” and the “ability to connect with students heart-to-heart” received a Teacher of the Year award from the Kansas Association of Independent and Religious Schools on Jan. 28.
Katie Walters from St. James Academy in Lenexa received the award from Vince Cascone, superintendent of archdiocesan schools, during a brief ceremony in the school’s media center.
The academy’s senior class was there to witness the ceremony in person, while other classes, faculty and staff viewed it over the school’s in-building video system.
“It was most certainly a surprise,” said Walters. “I am humbled to be nominated for this award and to be on staff with my colleagues, who I think the world of. A lot of the credit is due to the teams I work on and the students in the classroom.”
“The receptivity of my students is encouraging,” she added. “I’m encouraged as well, especially this year, when we are working so hard to move forward safely for the sake of the other . . . and I owe a lot of credit to my husband, the way he encourages me and gives me feedback.”
Walters has been a theology teacher for the past 11 years and director of the academy’s community/house system for the past five years.
She was one of four teachers in Kansas — and the only one in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas — to receive the annual KAIRS award.
Founded in 1970, KAIRS represents more than 132 Catholic, Lutheran, Independent, Christian and Seventh-day Adventist schools educating approximately 35,000 students in Kansas.
Walters was nominated last year by Shane Rapp, principal of St. James Academy. In his letter of recommendation, Rapp praised her ability to connect with students and her excellent work ethic. He also noted her meticulously planned and ever-engaging lesson plans, mentorship of other staff members, attention to detail and willingness to put relationships first.
Furthermore, he said Walters “has taken her impact to a whole new level” through her leadership of healing retreats, co-leadership of a class for school staff on Ananias Training from the Catherine of Siena Institute and adaptation of the academy’s community/house system in response to the pandemic.
Walter’s husband Chris also teaches theology at the academy. They have four children between the ages of 1 and 6.