Cape chamber honors 2011 Educators of the Year

Friday, May 6, 2011
This year's Educator of the Year award recipients display their awards at a banquet hosted by the Cape Area Chamber of Commerce at Ray's Plaza Conference Center in Cape Girardeau on Thursday. From left are Julia Unnerstall of Alma Schrader Elementary, Dr. Steven Hoffman of the College of Liberal Arts at Southeast Missouri State University, Dennis Wilson of Central Junior High School and Janet Brase of Blanchard Elementary. Not pictured is Kristin Gill of Blanchard Elementary. (Kristin Eberts)

Giving back to something that offered so much guidance to her as a child is why Julia Unnerstall loves where she teaches.

Unnerstall is one of the five educators who were honored as a 2011 Educator of the Year by the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce Education Committee.

The 18th annual Educator of the Year Banquet, which is sponsored by the chamber, was held Thursday evening at The Plaza by Ray's in Cape Girardeau.

Unnerstall has worked the past 15 years as the elementary counselor at Alma Schrader Elementary. She also attended Alma Schrader from kindergarten to sixth grade and says her fifth-grade teacher originally led her toward the education path.

"I love giving back to the school district where I graduated, my parents graduated and my son will graduate in 2014," she said.

Other honorees are:

* Janet Brase, a fourth-grade teacher at Blanchard Elementary.

* Kristin Gill, a second-grade teacher at Blanchard Elementary.

* Dennis Wilson, the visual arts teacher at Central Junior High School.

* Dr. Steven Hoffman, a professor in the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts at Southeast Missouri State University.

Each year four kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers and one Southeast Missouri State University faculty member are chosen. Nominations are made by the public, and an education committee, made up of volunteers from the chamber, reviews and scores each application. Finally, they interview nominees to determine the top five.

The banquet hosted about 270 people, including the honorees along with their colleagues and associates, business sponsors of the chamber and cooperate and executive partners with the chamber.

The five honored educators received the Crystal Apple Award, a $500 check and a video commemorating all five honorees. Resolutions of honor were also bestowed to the honorees from the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate.

Tim Arbeiter, vice president community development for the chamber, said it was their work with students that made these five rise above the other nominees.

"All of these honorees have given phenomenal service to their community," he said. "They're exceptional. They do great things with their students, and that's the wonderful thing."

Wilson, who has been teaching seven years, said his favorite aspect of teaching is giving students the "aha" moment.

"That's the really cool thing for me --- when they finally get something they never got before," he said.

Unnerstall said the most gratifying feeling for her is knowing a difference has been made in a child's life.

She said when she reaches the end of her life, "that's going to be one of the things that matter to me the most."

rrolwing@semissourian.com

388-3654

Pertinent address:

3257 William St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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