2023 KU seniors honor high school teachers with Wolfe Teaching Excellence Awards

LAWRENCE — Three outstanding high school teachers will be recognized with the Wolfe Teaching Excellence Award this graduation season.

“For those in the teaching profession, perhaps the highest honor that can be bestowed is to have former students recognize the impact great teachers had on their lives,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education & Human Sciences. “The Wolfe Teaching Excellence Award does just that, arguably the most valuable evaluation any classroom teacher will ever experience.”

Nominations are submitted by KU seniors. Students from any major can nominate their former teachers, and the winners can be high school teachers from anywhere in the world. The 2023 award recipients are:
•    Lorranda Baldridge, Olathe Northwest High School 
•    Matt Ellis, Lawrence High School
•    Erica Huggard, Emporia High School

Baldridge was nominated by Andrew Ost, a senior in KU’s School of Business. Ost first had Baldridge as a teacher at Mission Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kansas before taking several French classes under her instruction during high school. In the nomination, Ost wrote: “Her classroom was my safe place. That is because of the leadership and the genuine care she emitted to students every single class, even at the rough points in the semester … She will go down as the best teacher I have ever had in 22 years. I will always be in debt to her for the possibilities she opened up and helped me realize.”

Ellis was nominated by Halle Marrett, a senior in architectural engineering at KU; Anna Parnell, a senior in aerospace engineering at KU; and Cole Shupert, a senior in aerospace engineering KU. Marrett, who took mathematics classes with Ellis from Algebra II through Calculus BC, wrote: “He built up my confidence in my math skills and encouraged me to pursue engineering in college,” while Parnell, who took precalculus and calculus courses taught by Ellis, in addition to serving as his student aide during her senior year, said “I believe my friends and parents would agree that he is the one who truly inspired my love of math.” Shupert, who also took Ellis’s calculus classes, said of Ellis: “In addition to being an excellent teacher Mr. Ellis cultivated and maintained a positive, welcoming, and friendly environment in his classroom.”

Huggard was nominated by Lena Mose, a senior in American studies and women, gender and sexuality studies at KU. Mose, who took Huggard’s biology, anatomy and physiology classes and participated in Emporia High School’s Female Empowerment Club, founded by Huggard. In the nomination, Mose said: “Though I am a humanities scholar, Mrs. Huggard is living proof that with the right teacher can make any subject engaging.” 

Recipients each receive a cash award of $3,000, and their respective high schools each receive $1,000. The award winners were selected from a large pool of outstanding nominees by a committee of faculty, administrators and students from KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and School of Education & Human Sciences.

The award recipients are honored during commencement weekend at the KU School of Education & Human Sciences convocation ceremony, along with a dinner held in their honor. Award recipients will receive a plaque in honor of their accomplishment. 

The Wolfe Teaching Excellence Award was created in 2006 with a $250,000 gift from R. Dean Wolfe, business administration, ’66, and juris doctorate, ’69, and Cheryl L. Wolfe, Spanish education, ’69, Clayton, Missouri, through the Wolfe Family Foundation. The award fund is managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.