Position: Retiring Kindergarten Teacher
School: Whittier Elementary School
School District: Kansas City Public Schools
City, State: Kansas City, MO
Music that Describes Phyllis
Phyllis Evans was nominated by her colleague, Rebekah Wampler.
"Phyllis is a born LifeChanger. She sparks joy, inspires people to change, and encourages the best that is in ourselves," said Wampler. "She is a kindergarten teacher, and in my opinion, the best of the best."
"Our relationship began seven years ago when I, in my first year of teaching, found out that we lived relatively close to one another, so we began carpooling to work," said Wampler. "Picture me, a young, naive girl, with a wonderful, wise woman to talk to on my way to work. It was nothing short of a gift. I was new to teaching in the urban core, and Ms. Evans had 38 years of teaching experience to my 0. I wanted to absorb all the knowledge that she could give. We would discuss culturally taboo subjects because she was a safe space for that. We would make the trek from home to work with one another for over two years. During that time, I found out she moved from Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina wreaking havoc on her home. She picked up what she had left and brought herself to where her sister resided in Overland Park, Kansas."
Ms. Evans jumps right in. She has led the Black History Committee, was elected to the Leadership Team for Administration, and won Teacher of the Year for her school in 2018-2019. She has mentored teachers, both on and off the record. Ms. Evans has served on multicultural committees and student outreach committees.
"In our first year in a new building, she and I organized pick me ups for our teachers," said Wampler. "She has the kind of fortitude to propel people to keep on going."
"It's not what is on paper that makes her remarkable. It's the joy that permeates her classroom and fills the hearts of her students," said Wampler. "When I moved into my new role as an ESL teacher in our building, I was positioned by Ms. Evans in the morning. We would play music and dance with our students as they entered the building. Teaching kindergarten can be no small effort, either. I would watch as heartbroken parents and children would have to separate themselves for their child to experience the wonders of school. Slowly but surely, Ms. Evans would win their precious hearts, and they couldn't stand to be away from her."
Many times, Ms. Evans would have anywhere from seven to nine different languages represented in her classroom. She had a difficult challenge, but as the born teacher she was, she had her classroom transformed into a place of wonder and amazement. Christmas time was especially wonderful in her classroom hallway. She decorated her classroom door and hall to look like a magical wonderland.
Ms. Evans noticed how students weren't particularly fond of being gone over winter break, so she started a celebration in her school. Each older student "adopted" a younger peer. Every day during the week before Christmas break, the older students would come down and leave treats in the younger students' stockings. Much to the younger students' delight, they had a sock full of goodies to take with them on the day before leaving for break.
"Ms. Evans is the type of person who does not seek reward. She has completed so many tasks to engage community involvement, to support our precious students, and to encourage her fellow colleagues," said Wampler. "I know that I am a better educator because of her."