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story.lead_photo.caption Katie Finley Cauwenbergh with Fulton School Superintendent Jacque Cowherd. Cauwenbergh is the district's 2018 teacher of the year. Photo by Submitted

Katie Finley Cauwenbergh was just named 2018 Fulton Public School's teacher of the year. She said there was never a question when it came to deciding her career.

"I just like to learn new things and try new things," the Bartley Elementary kindergarten teacher said. "I always knew I was going to be a teacher."

Cauwenbergh and Karen Koontz, named support staff of the year, learned of these honors April 18 at the annual awards banquet. Koontz is the assistant principal's secretary at Fulton Middle School and has worked at the district for 23 years.

"It was a huge honor," Cauwenbergh said. "I was shocked and surprised."

Also honored were Fulton Community Teachers Association scholarship awardees (scholarships to students going into field of education); Anita Ryan, a Bartley Elementary volunteer given the Outstanding Service in Education award; and a retiree, Helen Jarvis. Jarvis is a Bartley Elementary reading interventionist serving 27 years at Fulton Public Schools, 39 years total.

Cauwenbergh, who recently got married, originally is from St. Louis.

"I went to William Woods and I played soccer there," she said, adding she graduated in 2008. "I did my student teaching at Bartley and I just loved it."

She didn't want to leave, so in August 2008, she joined the Bartley staff and taught first grade for three years.

"I got the 'Outstanding Beginning Teacher' award in April 2009," Cauwenbergh said.

Then she paired with Robyn Frame, and the two became the school's kindergarten teachers.

"We're known as the dynamic duo," Cauwenbergh said, laughing. "This weekend we're going to be doing the Super Sam run. I'll be Batman and she'll be Robin."

Cauwenbergh and Frame have participated in the Super Sam Foundation's fundraising run/walk at Memorial Park for years. The fourth annual Super Hero 5K and One Mile Fun Run will be Saturday at Memorial Park. The mile will begin first at 8:30 a.m. and is open to children age 10 and under. The 5K is open to all ages and will begin at 9:15. Capes are encouraged.

The two kindergarten teachers work closely together to create an encouraging environment in their classrooms.

"I just like to see the kids' excitement for learning," Cauwenbergh said. "Robyn and I like doing things that connect them to their environment."

That includes field trips, she said.

"I want them to be excited to come to school, want to learn and to be a great person," she added.

Koontz building relationships

For Koontz, the best part of her job at Fulton Middle School is the people she comes in contact with daily.

"I love working with the students," she said. "I love being here for the students, and I love being with the staff and administration in the building."

She said she's there to support the middle school's administration, staff and teachers.

"And I touch a lot of community members' lives, too," she said.

In her position for 23 years, a lot of former students now are bringing their own children to Fulton Middle School.

"I am so blessed to be able to have known so many student who have walked through these halls," Koontz added. "The best part of my job is not only making relationships — everyone has relationships — but building that trust with the students."

Koontz also said the award was unexpected. She thought she was there to celebrate someone else's award.

"I was just humbled," she added. "I'd rather give than receive. It was a huge surprise."