FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Two teachers and a staff member in Fort Wayne Community Schools were surprised with an award recognizing them for their impact in the district.

Oechsle (right) is named FWCS Employee of the Year by FWCS Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel (left)

Friday, a classroom assistant at Maplewood Elementary School was awarded Employee of the Year.

Tonya Oechsle has been serving in schools since 1997, and said she has been at Maplewood on a regular basis since 2005.

“I’m still shocked,” Oechsle said. “It’s very humbling. It makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Elizabeth Elick, a classroom assistant at Study Elementary, and Tameka McGraw, the secretary at Weisser Park Elementary, were both finalists for the award, FWCS said.  

In a release shared by FWCS, Maplewood Principal Alex Trevino called Oechsle “an ambassador for Maplewood and also for FWCS.” She said Oechsle goes beyond her job description and has made a difference in students’ reading skills.  

In fact, Oechsle was reading to students when Superintendent Mark Daniel visited her classroom to announce the good news:

Shellie Kale-Burden has been teaching first graders at Brentwood Elementary for five years, with 25 years of experience in total. She was given the Teacher of the Year award on Friday.

“If I can make a difference in one kid’s life, then it’s worth it,” Kale-Burden said, adding her goal is “for my kids to know that they’re safe and they’re loved first and foremost, and then after that, the learning will take place.”

Here’s the moment Kale-Burden found out she was being given the award:

FWCS said the other elementary finalists this year were Jared Flotow, third-grade teacher at Study Elementary; Kaitlin Huffman, first-grade teacher at South Wayne Elementary; Amy Stephenson, first-grade teacher at St. Joseph Central Elementary; and Rosemarie Suddeth, kindergarten teacher at Levan Scott Academy.

Christabel “Emma” Adhiambo, who has taught for 21 years, was surprised Monday with the Teacher of the Year award for her work in the district’s Young Adult Transition (YAT) program.

“It means a million things to me,” Adhiambo said. “When I see students wanting to come to school, looking forward to coming here and learning every day, that’s the icing to it all.”

Adhiambo has been leading the YAT program for two and a half years at FWCS’s career academy. FWCS said in the release that parents describe Adhiambo as a gift to the district, a teacher who is amazing for her students and loved by her staff. 

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Nikki Sprunger, Assistant Superintendent of Diverse Learners; Dr. Mark Daniel, Superintendent; Christabel “Emma” Adhiambo, FWCS Secondary Teacher of the Year; Jesse Webb, Career Academy Principal; Dr. D. Faye Williams-Robbins, Deputy Superintendent.

“Not a day goes by that my daughter doesn’t blossom and grow,” Marlie Gernhardt said. “My daughter is excited to go to YAT and she can’t wait to come home and share what she learned.”

The other secondary finalists this year were Reba Ervin, science teacher at Northrop High School; Josie (Beaver) Gorman, sixth-grade math teacher at Towles New Tech; Melanie Rice, process teacher at Amp Lab at Electric Works; Amy Schmitz, Digital Imaging Teacher at North Side High School; and Katie Sheppard, English Language Learner teacher at South Side High School.

Adhiambo and Kale-Burden will both be nominated for Indiana Teacher of the Year.