Salute Our Heroes: Kindergarten teacher awarded for innovative approach

Haley Slusser, a kindergarten teacher at West Indianola Elementary School, was nominated for the Next Gen Under 30 award in Kansas.
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 1:01 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An elementary school teacher is being recognized for her impact on students in the Seaman school district.

Haley Slusser is a kindergarten teacher at West Indianola Elementary School.

“It is heartwarming to see everything she does with the kids and just to see her passion come out,” said West Indianola principal, Tami Wade. “When you walk into a room you just feel that energy that she has and you see it in the kids.”

Kindergarten is many kids’ first introduction to school, which is a challenge Slusser takes head-on.

“The first day of school is usually like herding cats, so we spend a lot of time on procedures and routines and give a lot of praise. Verbal praise goes a long way with the kids,” said Slusser.

She said she creates lesson plans that will get her students excited about learning.

“I really want to start them off on the right foot,” Slusser continued saying, “I want parents to feel engaged, I want the kids to love learning, I want them to be happy to come to school, and I want to make it memorable. So, all those fun things that make it interactive and engaging, it is just a lot of fun to do.”

She prides herself on helping each new group of students learn to be well-behaved.

“We work really hard on what is expected [of them] and what to do, making the right choices, and then they know what to expect and then they are proud of themselves when they are doing the right thing,” Slusser adds.

“Seeing where they come from day one, even from when we are in the cafeteria on that day one, to where they grow and their confidence,” Wade continued saying, “I mean we are just starting the second quarter and we have already seen what they can do and how far they have come.”

This year, Slusser was named a Next Gen Under 30 award winner. The newly established Kansas Department of Commerce program recognizes young adults that are making a difference in their communities.

“It was a parent who nominated her for this award, so that tells a lot right there of what her parents think of her,” Wade added. “Haley is very caring, very innovative, very hands-on, warm with parents, and warm with kids.”

Slusser said, “Working with the kids and seeing them grow up and become scientists, artists, and all the different things and their passions. I love what I do.”

She was one of only six Next Gen Under 30 winners in the K-12 education category. Slusser will get to meet Governor Laura Kelly later this year and be honored at an award ceremony.