K-ACTE Award Winners 2014


Kelly HoeltingTeacher of the Year - StateKelly Hoelting

Agriculture Education Instructor, Mission Valley USD #330

KAAE Affiliate


“Helping students to become the people they cannot be themselves.” This quote exemplifies Kelly Hoelting’s dedication to teaching and to the FFA. As a teacher, it is her responsibility to push students beyond their boundaries, not only in the classroom, but also at career development events, leadership opportunities, and in their supervised agriculture experience. Hoelting enjoys seeing her students not only succeed in the classroom, but to find their true passion in life. Her other passion is agriculture. It is her goal to keep students informed about the importance of agriculture to the world, our national economy, and in their individual lives.


Hoelting is currently in her 13th year as the agriculture education instructor at Mission Valley High School in Eskridge, Kan. Throughout her years as a teacher, Hoelting has taken steps to make the agriculture education program at Mission Valley one of the top programs in the state. When she arrived in her position, the curriculum was out-of-date, and did not meet the Kansas state agriculture education standards. By revising the curriculum and adding an additional three classes, she has worked to improve the agriculture education program and the learning experience for her students and the Mission Valley community.


The agriculture program at Mission Valley offers students a broad introduction into agriculture for students grades 8-12. The agriculture program collaborates with core academic teachers to help support the state standards and meet common core requirements. Hoelting’s program has served as a profession development school for Kansas State University’s Block II agriculture education students and she has been the cooperating teacher for four student teaching interns during the past five years. Hoelting also serves on the KSU Ag Education Advisory Committee and as a trustee on the Kansas FFA Foundation board. She has been an active member of her professional organizations including KAAE serving on the mentoring and legislative committees.


Merritta CombsTeacher of the Year - AffiliateMerritta Combs

Family & Consumer Science Instructor, West Franklin High School

KATFACS Affiliate


Merritta Combs was born and raised in Utica, Kan. on a farm with three brothers.  Her parents were educators, livestock producers, and they were a strong 4-H family.  Combs grew up raising Duroc swine, beef, and foods projects.  She was a pork promoter at the state and national levels and even took 4-H’ers to the Capitol at 5:30 a.m. to promote pork on KS Ag. Day.  Combs graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in Vocational Home Economics, and later obtained her Masters Degree in Counseling from Emporia State University.


Combs is a Family and Consumer Science instructor with 40 years of experience at Pomona High, which later became West Franklin High School.  She began the FHA/HERO Chapter, which became FCCLA.  There are two pathways at West FranklinundefinedHuman Services and Restaurant and Hospitality.  She enjoys teaching a variety of preparations including Career and Life Planning, Family Studies, Human Growth and Development, dual credit Psychology, Culinary Essentials, Culinary Arts I, and Career and Community Connections.  Last year she initiated the Culinary Program and school business with students filling orders for food creations and business at hospitality events. She is the S.A.F.E. (Seatbelts are for Everyone) team adviser promoting safe driving.  Combs is the FCCLA Adviser with a very active chapter. 


She is a member of ACTE, Kansas ACTE, KATFACS (District H Vice President), and FCCLA Alumni.  Combs was awarded the FCCLA Master Adviser in 2013 and KATFACS Teacher of the Year in 2014.  Her family sponsors a scholarship each year furthering their commitment to education.  Combs believes that her infectious passion for teaching, culinary arts enthusiasm, and love for students helps to motivate and encourage young leaders.


Jacqueline GabbertNew Teacher of the Year – StateJacqueline Gabbert

Agricultural Educator, USD 364 Marysville

KAAE Affiliate


Jacqueline Gabbert is one of two agricultural educators at Marysville High School in Marysville, Kan.  In addition to leading the FFA chapter, she also teaches the classes of introduction to agriculture, advanced agricultural science, agricultural business, agricultural power, and horticulture.  The Marysville FFA Chapter currently has 104 members.  The Chapter has been awarded as a gold division chapter in the Triple Crown award, two years in a row.  Additionally, Gabbert has helped numerous students win district and state proficiency awards, has had 10 state degree recipients, and three state star finalists.  Additionally, she has helped two students to become Northeast District President, thus becoming the Northeast District Advisor. 


Students have participated in various district Career Development Events under Gabbert’s leadership.  Other local activities include students helping to build the local rails to trails, assisting in the construction of the community garden, a pasture project partnering with Farm Credit, and participating in the Giant Pumpkin Project.  Students also have the opportunity to build shop projects, work in the greenhouse, and help in the FFA spot in the community garden.


Gabbert is a four-year member of KAAE and K-ACTE.  She is currently serving on the KAAE in-service committee.  Through this committee, she has helped set up tours for two different conferences for more than 120 members at each conference.


Gabbert grew up on a farm in rural Moran.  She attended college at Ft. Scott Community College on a Meats Judging Scholarship.  She then transferred to Kansas State University.  After graduation, she received a Fulbright Grant to teach conversational English in South Korea.  These experiences have helped her bring in real life examples to her teaching.  In her spare time, Gabbert enjoys spending time with her husband and two dogs.  Her hobbies include gardening and tailgating at KSU football games.


Kjerstine VaughnNew Teacher of the Year - AffiliateKjerstine Vaughn

Family & Consumer Science Teacher, Frankfort High School

KATFACS Affiliate


Kjerstine Vaughn is the Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher at Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Kan. She is a graduate of Snow College in 2008, and a graduate from Kansas State University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Human Ecology. Kjerstine was named the Kansas State Teacher of Promise in 2011.  She began her teaching career at Council Grove High School where she reopened the FCS department that had been closed for almost two years. She also taught for one year at Rock Creek High School. She currently teaches junior high and high school courses in the Family and Community Services Pathway and Early Childhood Development and Services Pathway. She is also the FCCLA Adviser, Junior High Volleyball Coach, and Junior Class Sponsor. She is currently serving as a District D FCCLA Adviser. She is also currently website coordinator for the KATFACS website, District D Vice-President and is in charge of the KATFACS marketing committee.


She enjoys spending time with her husband, Mike, new baby daughter, Druzella, and her family. She also enjoys supporting her nieces and nephews in their extracurricular activities, gardening, reading, and cooking.


Marla SterlineYoung Teacher of the Year - StateMarla Sterling

Family & Consumer Science Teacher, Cherryvale Middle/High School

KATFACS Affiliate


Marla Sterling is the current 7-12 grade Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Cherryvale Middle/High School. She also serves as the advisor for the local chapter of Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America. She has been in this position for seven years.

Sterling has received both of her degrees from Pittsburg State University. In 2007 she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences Education and in 2011, earned her Master’s of Science in Career and Technical Education with an emphasis in Family and Consumer Sciences.


Sterling started her career in Family and Consumer Sciences at Cherryvale Middle/High School in August 2007. In her seven years at CMHS, she has greatly improved the FACS program by adding new courses, structure, realistic expectations, and approved program of study guidelines. Courses taught by Sterling include: Middle School FACS, Balancing Career and Family, Child Development, Consumer Decisions, Fashion Design and Strategies, Introduction to Family and Consumer Sciences, Career and Community Connections, Nutrition and Wellness, and Foods. During the 2012-2013 school year, Sterling helped implement the Success 101 course into the Freshman class schedule. This program is now in its second year, is a graduation requirement at CHS and Sterling is the Lead Teacher. This role provides her the opportunity to work on the curriculum and assist the other teacher(s) in following through with said curriculum.


Sterling has been an active member of the Kansas Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (KAFCS) and the Kansas Association of Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences (KATFACS) since beginning her career. She has served on the Awards Committee for KATFACS for five years and has served as Secretary of KAFCS. She is currently the President of KATFACS and the 2nd President-Elect of K-ACTE.


Laura PriestYoung Teacher of the Year - AffiliateLaura Priest

Agriculture Instructor/FFA Advisor, Lawrence Free State High School

KAAE Affiliate


Coming from a production agriculture background, Laura Priest knew Agriculture was where she wanted to be. So with that desire to be in the agriculture industry along with her passion for teaching and working with kids, she majored in Agricultural Education.

Priest, originally from Sabetha, Kan. received a B.S. in Agricultural Education in December 2006. In January 2007, Priest accepted her first agriculture education job as a long-term substitute for Solomon High School before accepting the teaching position at Lawrence Free State.

Priest has been teaching and serving as the FFA Advisor in the CTE Department at Lawrence Free State High School since 2007. She appreciates her location because of the diverse student population, the strong agricultural community, as well as the blend of urban and traditional agriculture. In addition to her teaching responsibilities Priest advises her FFA members in the planning of community and leadership development activities; helps students set career-related goals through developing supervised agricultural experience (SAE) programs; and coaches career development event (CDE) teams.


Priest credits her success in the classroom to her contagious enthusiasm for agriculture and love for teaching and mentoring. She believes that her motivating character helps to inspire and encourage students daily. These traits helped Priest to be accepted as National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador in 2014, NAAE XLR8 Participant in 2013, CASE Institute participant from 2011-2014, K-ACTE Outstanding New Career & Technical Teacher Winner in 2012, and a KAAE Mentor Award Recipient in 2012.


Julie DaintyPostsecondary Teacher of the Year - StateJulie Dainty

Associate Professor, Pittsburg State University

KATFACS Affiliate


For the past 25 years, Julie Dainty has either been teaching secondary or post-secondary students in CTE or gaining CTE related work experience. In her current role as a Technical Teacher Educator, Dr. Dainty instructs teacher preparation courses, but truly she strives to teach students. Dr. Dainty travels across the state of Kansas to advise current students, recruit new students and teach courses in the technical teacher education program. She addresses the needs of the students in all expectations of her role as Associate Professor at Pittsburg State University.


A Bachelor’s of Science in FCS education launched Dr. Dainty’s career as a secondary teacher. A desire to prepare others to teach in an FCS program fueled her quest for a Master’s of Science degree in Career and Technical Education. Moving into the technical teacher education field drove Dr. Dainty’s efforts toward earning her doctorate in Workforce Development. All of her educational focus has been on becoming a better teacher, teacher educator, and preparing the future workforce in technical areas.


Dr. Dainty is a continual learner and believes in the benefits of being involved in research. Her current projects are focused on retention of secondary CTE teachers and safety and health practices in CTE programs. Expanding current research from the state of Kansas in retention of CTE teachers into the states of Pennsylvania and Arkansas to develop a national model is on the horizon. Data collection has been completed at the secondary and post-secondary levels for safety and health practices in CTE programs in Kansas. This research is a collaborative project with the Pittsburg State University Construction Safety and Technical Teacher Education programs and Pennsylvania State University.


Involvement in professional organizations, university service, and community is important to Dr. Dainty. She will be the Faculty Senate President for Pittsburg State University for 2014-15. From providing desserts for Monday night meals for college students at her church to attending national conferences, Dr. Dainty works hard to be involved.


Outside of her work, she enjoys spending time with her three children, Luke (20), Audrey (16) and Abbey (13), and her husband of 28 years, Tim.


Larry LyderCarl Perkins Outstanding Service Award – StateLarry Lyder

Past: Agricultural Education, Instructor, Hill City Jr/Sr High

Current: Intermediate Principal, Hugoton Elementary

KAAE Affiliate


Being raised on a dairy and grain farm in east central Kansas, Larry Lyder’s foundation and love for agriculture and serving others was set. While being very active in FFA throughout his high school career, Lyder developed a solid framework in leadership and community service. Obtaining a degree in Interdisciplinary Agriculture from Texas Tech University led to the beginning of his career and technical education career. Additionally, he has received a Masters in Business Administration and Master of Science in Educational Administration from Fort Hays State University. He has been actively involved in agricultural education and career and technical education for 15 years with the last 10 years serving as the agricultural educator and FFA advisor at Hill City Jr./Sr. High School, which included serving as the district’s Career and Technical Education Director.


Not only has Lyder served in the capacity as advocate and educator of career and technical education, but he has reached to serve his community in many ways including serving on numerous committees within the community of Hill City including the city council and economic development committee. He has even served as the Mayor of the City of Hill City.


Lyder’s dedication to career and technical education has been felt not only with his local school and community, but also throughout the state and on the national level. He has served as an advocate through his leadership in the KAAE that has included serving on the executive board in numerous positions including president. He has also served in many leadership roles within K-ACTE.  Through these leadership positions, he has utilized the opportunity to promote career and technical education to state legislators and business leaders. Additionally, he has attended the National Policy Seminar in Washington, DC. Through this event, Lyder has gained an additional level of impact while working with national legislators who have carried over into the advocacy at the state and local levels.


Ashley WeberCarl Perkins Outstanding Service Award - AffiliateAshley Weber

Family and Consumer Science Educator, Mission Valley High School

KATFACS Affiliate


Ashley Weber was born in Colby, Kan. and is a native of Wamego, Kan. She is a 2002 graduate of Wamego High School and pursued her post-secondary education at Kansas State University.


For the past seven years, Weber has served as the Family and Consumer Sciences instructor at Mission Valley High School in Eskridge, Kan. Starting in the fall, she has accepted a new position and will be the FCS teacher at Wabaunsee High School in Alma. Ashley was also the advisor for the Mission Valley FCCLA chapter. She has been an adviser to nine district officers and one state officer in her short tenure. Her students have also competed in a number of STAR events and have medaled at the district, state, and national level.


Weber is personally involved in her community through judging 4-H events and helping raise money for the Lady Lakers. Her FCCLA chapter also is involved in numerous service projects for the school and community. Weber’s strongest leadership role has been in the development of the Mission Valley School’s Alternative Day, which is a day in which students are exposed to alternative and innovative lessons that go beyond the traditional classroom. Last year, she organized an extensive Alternative Day program discouraging texting while driving, which included a mock accident and trial using local emergency and legal personnel. The Mission Valley FCCLA chapter received 2nd place in the AT&T It Can Wait Campaign for their efforts on this project. This year, she helped expand the event to include the neighboring school district, which doubled the size of the event. The focus this year was on under aged drinking. Numerous speakers were brought in to deter the behavior and encourage positive decisions. Weber’s FCCLA chapter won a National Program award through Kansas FCCLA for this event and has been nominated for the People Saving People award through the Department of Transportation for their efforts this year.


Finally, Weber has been a strong leader among her peers in the KATFACS district serving on the membership and marketing committees. She plans to become more active in this organization throughout her career.


KCEEAward of Merit - StateKansas Council for Economic Education (KCEE)

Nominated by KATFACS


The Kansas Council for Economic Education (KCEE) was founded in 1959. It is a non-profit. Although it is a separate legal entity, the KCEE is affiliated with Kansas’ six public universities through a Center for Economic Education on each campus. The KCEE vision is that every K-12 student in Kansas will become economically and financially literate so they will be more knowledgeable consumers; wiser savers and investors; better employees; and, more responsible citizens who are capable of managing their finances, evaluating policy decisions, and helping to avoid future economic and financial crises. In order to reach as many students as possible, KCEE’s mission is to equip teachers to teach economics and personal finance. KCEE equips them by training them through our own workshops, webinars, and video conferences; by providing tuition assistance to enable them to take courses for graduate credit through our affiliated universities; by providing standards-based curriculum resources; and, by providing programs and competitions that engage students through experiential learning and practical applications of knowledge. These programs and competitions include: The Stock Market Game™, LifeSmarts, Financial Foundations for Kids, the Kansas Personal Finance Challenge, the Kansas Economics Challenge, and our Economics Poster Contest. KCEE contributes to career and technical education by helping prepare students for the workforce through economic and financial literacy and supporting the Kansas CTE teachers.


Joanelle LucasLifetime Achievement Award - StateJoanelle Lucas

Vocational Coordinator, Newton Public Schools

KCCTEA Affiliate


Joanelle Lucas has been instrumental in the advancement of Career & Technical Education in Kansas over the course of her career. She has developed and led an outstanding center in Newton, Kan., the Brooks Regional Trade Center at Newton High School. Her collaborative efforts with Hutchinson Community College and business and industry partners serve as a model for Kansas CTE. Lucas has served in many leadership capacities throughout her career, and is most known for her passion with connecting CTE teachers to opportunities in ACTE and Region V. She has been a long-time advocate for the Region V Leadership Conference and always sets an example of servant leadership. She continually supports the teachers at her school, but also serves all CTE teachers across Kansas by providing the connection to the region and to the national association. Lucas is known in Kansas and Region V as being dependable, energetic, and passionate about CTE and about students and teachers.


Within ACTE, Lucas has served on the Board of Directors for many years as the liaison to Region V and to ACTE. She has provided endless leadership for new board members about how ACTE, Region V, and K-ACTE should support the efforts of what happens in the classroom. Her efforts with marketing K-ACTE and increasing membership have been vital to our success as an organization. Quite simply, she has been the connection for new and long-standing members to the state, regional, and national organizations.


Lucas is a team player who everyone can relate to. She is recognized as someone who models what CTE should look like. She is a leader, an advocate, a worker, a colleague, and a friend. She has dedicated her career to CTE and to the students and teachers of Kansas.

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