Ruth Clark Elementary School first grade teacher Caleb McCaffree checks his classroom every morning to ensure everything is ready for another day of learning and engagement with his students.
McCaffree’s attention to details, instructional skills, professionalism, classroom management skills and willingness to go above and beyond inside and outside the classroom has been acknowledged with the highest state award for first-year teachers.
McCaffree was recently honored by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) as one of thirty-two 2015 Horizon Award recipients recognized as exemplary first-year educators. The program is a regional competition with four regions corresponding to the state’s U.S. Congressional districts. Four elementary and four secondary classroom teachers may be selected for the award from each region. To be eligible for the award, teachers must have successfully completed their first year of teaching and have performed in such a way as to distinguish themselves as outstanding.
The KSDE Horizon Award Program began in 2003. Prior to McCaffree’s award, Haysville USD 261 had five recipients. Honorees are: (2007) Micah Friesen, Nelson Elementary School; (2009) Jessica Bloyd, Haysville Middle School; (2009) April Davis, Freeman Elementary School; (2010) Jarrod Craig, Nelson Elementary School; and (2010) Joshua Kelly, Tri-City Day School.
McCaffree has worked at Ruth Clark for 8 years, beginning as a para-educator and is now in his second year as a teacher. He was very complimentary about the great opportunities he has had to watch and learn from wonderful Haysville USD 261 para-educators, teachers and principals.
“I feel extremely honored to be recognized with this award. I would not be where I am today without the support of my family, friends, and colleagues. My years at Ruth Clark have taught me a great deal and I use what I have learned daily. I had several excellent instructors at Wichita State University, who taught me valuable lessons and gave me plenty of feedback,” McCaffree said. “My student teaching semester at Prairie Elementary School was a great learning opportunity from which I took away terrific ideas, strategies and knowledge.”
Being a Campus High School alumnus, McCaffree believes he has an advantage returning to work at Haysville USD 261.
“Staying in a community where I grew up had a huge impact on why I chose the teaching profession and where I wanted to continue to work,” he said. “As my career path changed to education, it was comforting to know that some of the people I grew up with in the classroom were still there to give me support and guidance as I began teaching. Having spent so much time at Ruth Clark, it has always felt like “home” to me. I believe my transition from being a para-professional to teacher was easier for me because of my familiarity with the building.”
Ruth Clark Elementary Principal Carla Wulf believes McCaffree’s organizational, collaborative and technological skills make him a leader among his peers.
“In my 24 years of education, he would rank in the top one percent. McCaffree is the epitome of what we want to see come out of the university education programs,” Wulf explained. “When you observe his classroom, you would not guess he is a new teacher, his skills are natural and confident. His management skills and strategies maximize instruction and minimizes disruptions. McCaffree is well on his way in his transformation from a new teacher to becoming a future master teacher.”
Ruth Clark Elementary School teacher Shenae Stein applauded McCaffree’s commitment to going above and beyond in the classroom during his first year of teaching.
“One reason Caleb is so successful is his capability to interact with his students. To create a positive environment for his students, he built bookshelves, sewed curtains, bought pizza and wore fuzzy pink socks. His willingness to do whatever it takes to motivate his students is truly above and beyond.”
Brooke Chadd’s son, Xander, was a student in McCaffree’s class during his first year of teaching at Ruth Clark.
“As a parent, I could not be more pleased that beyond the standard curriculum, Caleb taught students to be good leaders. He made his students feel good about setting good examples for each other,” Chadd said. “My son was so pleased when Mr. McCaffree attended his out-of-town wrestling tournament. Our family puts McCaffree in the ‘Teacher of a Lifetime’ category. I know many years down the road, my son’s favorite teacher will always be Mr. McCaffree.”
In McCaffree’s first grade classroom, excitement is contagious!
“One of the best things about first grade is that the kids are excited to be there and want to learn every day. When they are excited to learn, I am excited to teach,” he explained. “My students enjoy reading books together and volunteering to help and teach others to tie their shoes. It is amazing to watch them grow academically and independently in my classroom.”
Within 10 minutes of spending time in McCaffree’s classroom, three things will quickly become apparent: (1) He wants his students to learn, experience success and have fun; (2) He creates an engaging atmosphere in his classrooms to give students the best chance to succeed and (3) Students and their best interests always come first.
As a Horizon Award recipient, during his first year as a teacher, McCaffree has distinguished himself in the classroom and built a foundation for his students that will last a lifetime.