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Ellis teacher right where she belongs





ELLIS -- Little did Stacy Befort know when she sent her last child to kindergarten in 1988 she would be returning to that classroom at Washington Elementary School in Ellis as a teacher someday.

It's definitely where she belongs, said administrators, peers and parents.

Befort -- in her 20th year of teaching at Washington, including 16 at the kindergarten level -- is a Region 1 semifinalist for teacher-of-the-year honors sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education.

"She keeps the kids really busy, keeps a real orderly class and can deal with any type of child, any kind of situation," said Randy Honas, a parent who has had three children study under Befort.

"She has her day, her week, her month all planned out," said Honas, whose youngest child, Toby, is a student in Befort's classroom this year. "She has an excellent plan and makes it happen."

Befort gets the chance to show others what makes her style of teaching work, as well as observe other successful methods as well.

The 90-some regional semifinalists at the elementary and secondary levels will attend the state leadership conference in November in Wichita.

There, they will be assigned to a team that will travel the state visiting other classrooms as part of the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network program.

Befort was nominated by Ellis USD 388 as its teacher of the year. In order to pursue possible regional and state recognition, it takes an extensive application process, but Befort said it was worth the extra work.

"I thought it was a good way to evaluate myself," Befort said.

At the Region 1 banquet in Salina last month -- the state is divided into four regions -- Befort was called to the front as one of three semifinalists for the elementary level.

Colleen Mitchell from Emporia was the elementary teacher to go on to represent Region 1 at state, but all the regional semifinalists will take part in the KEEN program.

"I'm excited about getting to go to other classrooms," Befort said.

That's much the same type of enthusiasm Befort has displayed throughout her entire teaching career.

"I can't believe it's been 20 years," she said. "I'm just as excited as I was my first day of (teaching)."

She credits her students as the reason her passion for teaching hasn't waned.

"It's such a delight when they grasp a new concept, and there is so much reward to know where they start and where they end," she said of her young students. "There is so much growth."

With all three of her children attending Ellis schools when she started college, Befort took most of her classes at Fort Hays State University on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school year and several more hours during summer school.

She graduated in December 1991 and worked as a long-term substitute in the Hays school district until a position opened up at the first-grade level in Ellis in 1993.

Befort taught in the first- and second-grade classrooms for four years until helping get the all-day kindergarten program off the ground at Washington in 1997. And she's been at that level ever since.

Always looking for more ways to help her students, Befort successfully sought a grant offered by McDonald's in 1996.

In the 25-year history of the McDonald's classroom grant program, Befort has received a record 12 grants totaling nearly $5,600.

"I wanted to buy an insect unit for the class, and I was so excited when I received that first grant," she said. "I think it was for $162."

That $162, along with her 11 successive grants through the years, have helped Befort purchase hands-on learning devices for her classroom she might not have otherwise been able to get.

"I try to teach to all different levels, but I think hands-on (learning) is so important," she said. "I let them take ownership of the classroom, and they take a lot of pride in that."