Every soccer season, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and Sporting Kansas City partner to honor Blue KC Sporting Samaritans, teachers who strive to make the Kansas City community a better place to live, work and play. Award recipients are selected from nominations submitted by fans, friends and colleagues. Sporting Samaritans are honored on the pitch at a Sporting KC home game, receive a custom jersey and meet with Sporting KC defender Matt Besler. Learn about this season’s honorees below.
Cynthia Gerdes, Counselor at Raytown Middle School (March)
School counselor Cynthia Gerdes advocates for her students and motivates them to see value in attending school – she even makes home visits to help ensure their success. Gerdes has also persevered through a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis and she still continues to fight for her students despite her personal one. Her no-nonsense attitude helps her coach her students to excel at school and help each one pass each grade as they overcome emotional issues that affect their day-to-day life. Gerdes has built a well-deserved reputation of excellence and her optimism has helped her and students overcome obstacles. Learn more about Cynthia.
Dr. Dustin Springer, Instructional Coach at Merriam Park Elementary School (April)
Each day, Dr. Dustin Springer helps students connect with the community and vice versa. For example, he works with the local police department to help facilitate positive relationships between students and officers. Dr. Springer also coordinates school-wide service projects that allow students and families to make a positive and meaningful impact on the Kansas City community. Some of these projects have include creating ‘Bears Care’ packages for the military, painting ‘kindness rocks’ and designing bookmarks for Literacy KC. Learn more about Dr. Springer.
Alexandra Paulson, Blue Valley School District Special Education Teacher (May)
Alexandra Paulson is part of the Blue Valley School District’s GEAR Program, which provides a safe, small, structured learning community through which students received individualized instruction to help students thrive academically and socially. Known for her sincere love and compassion for her students, Paulson takes her students on field trips and provides them with opportunities to serve others. Paulson has been a vital resource for her students’ families, and has received well-deserved recognition from parents for her ability to enhance the quality of life of their children. Paulson also goes above and beyond by attending college visits with her students to help them ease their stress about the next steps in their education. Learn more about Alexandra.
Kelsey Stimatze, Earl Lawson Elementary School Teacher (June)
Kelsey Stimatze developed a play-based learning program that increases the opportunities for students to be problem-solvers and hands-on learners and to initiate their own learning. She also helped transform an empty classroom to a play center complete with a rock wall, kitchen area, basketball hoop, kinetic sand and even a LEGO wall. Since the introduction of Stimatze’s play-based learning program, student academic and vocabulary skills have soared and incidents of student misbehavior have decreased, all the while helping students learn to love going to school. Learn more about Kelsey.
Cara Martin, Gifted Education Teacher at Wolf Springs Elementary (August)
Cara Martin helps her gifted education students embrace their curiosity, set goals and dream big, providing them with real-world STEM and STEAM experiences to help prepare them for their careers. As part of the vision team that helped open Wolf Springs Elementary three years ago, Martin and the planning team turned their dreams about what they wanted for the school and its students into a reality. Learn more about Cara.
Tiffany Peeler, Walden Middle School Teacher (August)
Fueled by her passion for environmental activism, Tiffany Peeler instills a love for the environment in her students. Fourteen years ago, she founded a school club called the Green Team, which helps students understand the purpose of protecting the planet through projects such as facilitating recycling for their school and petitioning local businesses to make eco-friendly changes. The Green Team also leads an initiative to encourage fellow students to bring ‘wasteless’ lunches to school every Wednesday. Learn more about Tiffany.
Preston Hickert, Heritage Middle School Teacher (September)
Through Preston Hickert’s work as a sixth-grade teacher and cross-country coach, he helps demonstrate to students the value they should see in themselves as well as in being kind to others and caring for the community. Hickert, a self-described ‘kindness advocate,’ works hard to make his classroom a welcoming place and invests much of his time outside of the classroom in his students as well – playing basketball with kids after the final bell and cheering them on at their sporting events. He is also passionate about personalized and project-based learning, and leads a pilot program called ‘HMS by Design,’ which helps students explore possibilities for their futures through real-world experiences. Learn more about Preston.
Do you know a student or teacher deserving of recognition as one of next season’s Sporting Samaritans? Nominate them at sportingkc.com/bluekc.