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13 Master Teachers you should know

Colleen Kurtz, a teacher of deaf and hard-of-hearing students at Roosevelt Elementary School, goes through a change-counting exercise with some of her students April 27, 2016, in Moline.

MOLINE -- Master Teacher recipient Colleen Kurtz fully expects to enjoy a "honey of a thyme" at tonight's awards ceremony.

Ms. Kurtz, a teacher for the deaf and hearing impaired at Roosevelt Elementary, in Moline, has selected honey thyme chicken for her entree at tonight's event where she also expects to be friendly "roasted" by some of her friends and colleagues.

She's one of 13 educators who will be honored tonight as Master Teachers by The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. A reception proceeds a dinner and the awards program at the iWireless Center at 1201 River Drive, Moline.

Other honorees are:  

— Calley Barnes, Eugene Field Elementary School, Rock Island

— Tiffany Denys, Wilson Middle School, Moline

— Jennifer Gath, Riverdale High School, Port Byron

— Allison Glessner, John Deere Middle School, Moline

— Natalie Green, United Township High School, East Moline

— Michelle Greenwood, Rock Island High School

— Matt Hutchins, Sherrard High School

— Chad Kennelly, Rock Island High School

— Lindsay Meeker, Jane Addams Elementary School, Moline

— Bree Summers, Belle Alexander Elementary School, Kewanee

— Jamie VenHuizen, Riverdale Elementary School, Port Byron

— Korah Winn, Rock Island Academy.

Begun in 1991, the Master Teachers program has honored a total of 406 of the area's best educators for their service and dedication. Service Plus Credit Union will serve as a first-time presenting sponsor this year, while Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., will continue as a sponsor. 

Ms. Kurtz said she was incredibly surprised and honored to be chosen, especially since she was nominated for the prize by her mentor, friend and colleague Renee Poust whom she highly admires as "an outstanding teacher."

She is interested in hearing tonight's stories about the other Master Teachers -- as well as "listening to what other people say about me," she said with a case of trivial trepidation. About a dozen of her colleagues plan to attend, she said.

"Others may view me differently," Ms. Kurtz said. "I feel I'm simply a good teacher. This is my job. I don't know any difference.

"My students always come first; they always have," she said. "If it takes 'til midnight to get my job done, then so be it."

Ms. Kurtz has been a teacher for 28 years. All of her students -- deaf or hard of hearing -- face communication barriers. All also get a cake on their birthdays, and albums of photos to remember class events and highlights of their time with a teacher they simply call "Kurtz."

Her projects often surprise her colleagues. Among favorites was the construction of a large schooner-type covered wagon filled with pioneer supplies, and Ms. Poust recalled when Ms. Kurtz built a life-sized igloo out of 100 milk jugs.

She's gone to all ends to do her job. In the early 1990s, she home-tutored a critically ill student who died at age 12 from a rare genetic disease. She still fights through tears when talking about him.

"He was such a wonderful kid with a great sense of humor," Ms. Kurtz said. "It still weighs near and dear to my heart." 

Normally, she said, her school days are filled with lots of laughter and humor.

"I joke and tease my students a lot, and these kids always say something funny every single day," she said. "I tell them that, 'If you don't laugh, you'll go crazy,'" she said. "I also have some wonderful teaching colleagues. We have a wonderful team at Roosevelt."

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