TOPEKA — Nona Mason, a kindergarten teacher at West Elementary School in Goodland and Justin Coffey, a high school mathematics teacher at Dodge City High School, were named Region 1 finalists for the 2016 Kansas Teacher of the Year award during a ceremony Saturday in Salina. This award recognizes excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state.

As finalists for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction, Mason and Coffey each received a $2,000 cash award from Security Benefit, the major corporate partner for the Kansas Teacher of the Year program. In addition, they are each now eligible to be named Kansas Teacher of the Year, which will be announced during ceremonies Nov. 21 in Wichita.

Mason and Coffey were among six semi-finalists from Region 1, which covers the first U.S. congressional district. Each semi-finalists received a red marble apple with a wooden base,. This year, 104 educators across the state were nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction.

The Kansas State Department of Education, sponsor of the Kansas Teacher of the Year program, appoints regional selection panels comprised of teachers, education administrators, and higher education representatives to select semi-finalists and finalists from each region.

Each panel selects six semi-finalists – three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers. From those semi-finalists, the panel in each region then selects one elementary finalist and one secondary finalist. The Kansas Teacher of the Year is selected from among the state’s eight regional finalists.

The mission of the Kansas Teacher of the Year program is to build and utilize a network of exemplary teachers who are leaders in the improvement of schools, student performance, and the teaching profession. The Kansas Teacher of the Year team, comprised of the Teacher of the Year and state finalists, serve as ambassadors for education in Kansas, making public appearances across the state promoting education and the teaching profession.

The individual selected as the Kansas Teacher of the Year is eligible for national distinction as National Teacher of the Year. The National Teacher of the Year program, presented by Voya Financial, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with People to People Ambassador Programs.