LEFT: Koreen Hammel (left) is presented the Hot Springs Teacher of the Year trophy by School Board Vice President Nikki Shaw. TOP RIGHT: High School Principal Troy Lurz (left) presents the Secondary School Teacher of the Year trophy to Kim Thomspon. BOTTOM RIGHT: School Board member Frances Stokes (left) presents a special recognition to longtime classified staff member Laura Marchant.
(Photos by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald-Star)
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – For many years the Hot Springs High School Alumni Association had coordinated and presented a “Teacher of the Year” award, which was presented during the annual Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet and Awards Night.
This year, so that the honoree could also be eligible for the regional and statewide Teacher of the Year award, the process was taken over by the Hot Springs School District itself and presented during the March 8 board meeting.
Winning the top honor of the “Hot Springs Teacher of the Year” was elementary teacher Koreen Hammel, with the runner-up from the Secondary School (Grades 6-12), Kim Thompson. Also recognized during the board meeting was longtime classified staff member Laura Marchant.
Prior to announcing the winners, Superintendent Dennis Fischer said there were a total of 11 certified teachers who were nominated for the award. All were very deserving of the honor, he said, which made the decision very difficult. The winners were chosen by a selection committee made up of seven of their peers, who utilized the statewide guidelines in choosing a winner.
Hammel has been teaching a total of 18 years, with the last 13 of those in Hot Springs. She began her teaching career in 2003 in the Dupree School District, first teaching computers to high schoolers before moving into the elementary grade level, which included being a 5th Grade teacher in 2006-07.
Following one year at Dickinson, N.D., she and her family moved to Hot Springs in 2008, where she began teaching computers again in the Hot Springs Middle and High Schools until 2010.
For two years she then taught 6th and 7th grade Math and Reading before returning to the elementary grade level once again, when she became a 5th Grade classroom reacher from 2013 to 2019. She has taught a combined 4th/5th grade class in Hot Springs since November 2019 to present.
In addition to work in the classroom with her students, Hammel also serves as the Hot Springs Education Association President and is on the Elementary Building Leadership Team, in addition to being active in many community organizations.
Prior to being presented her award by School Board Vice President Nikki Shaw, the following comments by her nominator were read:
“I believe Koreen Hammel, is the perfect candidate for this,” her nominator stated. “I have had two children in her classrooms over the years, and I hope to have my other two in her class as well. It is VERY rare to see a teacher go above and beyond for their students, both past and present, and make that ‘lasting’ impact that Koreen has. In any setting, whether it be at the school, the store, or even at a sporting event, she is always greeted by all the kids. They light up when they see her. She remembers their names, their interests, and talks to them as if each one is the most important student she’s ever had. I can tell you firsthand, that I have yet to see another teacher do that in the school district. Koreen puts in the extra work for grants for professional development as well as bringing STEM activities into her classroom. Even prior to the district wanting to head that route. She personally learns specific teaching methods that cater to a mixed classroom, with success. She fights for the success of this district. She fights for her peers. Most importantly, she fights for her students. You couldn’t ask for a better teacher and role model.”
Secondary School Teacher of the Year honoree Kim Thompson joined the teaching team at Hot Springs High School in August of 2012. Most recently, she has been very active this year in the Math PLC and the Secondary Building Leadership Team.
“Kim goes above and beyond to connect with all of our students,” stated her nominator. “It doesn’t matter if she has them in a class or not, she is always reaching out to those in need. She also takes great strides to be a friend to all staff. She is the first one to be there for you when things are crazy, and they have been crazy for a while with all the COVID issues we have dealt with. She is a strong teacher and a very strong woman. A blessing to us all. She takes time to make sure her students are understanding the lessons in her class, will stay after school to help them if needed. I know she has come to school early to meet students to give them help. Kim is active with staff committees and our Sunshine committee. She chaperone’s dances and activities and never complains.”
Classified Staff Member of the Year is a new award presented this year, and happens to have gone to someone who is also retiring from the Hot Springs Schools after her 36th year in the district.
Laura Marchant started in Hot Springs on Sept. 1, 1985, serving as the Food Service Secretary. This past year, she was instrumental in applying for and receiving for the district the Free Summer Meals which has now extended into the entire school year. Marchant also works with the elementary office to cover overflow duties as needed.
“She is reliable, always friendly, respectful and will be missed by all,” stated one of her nominators. “She works so hard to make sure that all the required paperwork is done for the state,” added another nominator. “She is very dedicated to her job even when she was sick . . . she would always make sure that everything was taken care of even if she was not feeling well … She is an asset that will truly be missed.”