Former educators, board members and other staff members from the Mexico School District were honored Tuesday in a ceremony naming them Pioneers in Education. The seven honorees each received a plaque and kind words from staff and current board members. They each also gave their reflection on their time with the school district.

The first honored was Dave Thomas, who was a social studies teacher, tennis coach and activities assistant during his time with the district from August 1968 to May 1969 and from August 1971 to May 2004. He still substitute teaches with the district.

It was his time as a teacher with the district that inspired Mexico Education Center Director Kerri Ferrari to work in education, according to prepared remarks read by board Treasurer Kelli Teel.

"He had a laid back classroom, even allowing students to call him by his first name, which students always loved," Teel said, reading Ferrari's statement. "It was when taking sociology and psychology with Mr. Thomas, I decided to pursue a career in helping others with degrees in social work and counseling."

Ferrari was Thomas' teaching assistant, he said. "She covered for every mistake I made," he said, amid audience laughter.

Elwood Rice was next recognized. He was a board of education director from 1987-2000 and from 2004-2016, serving as both treasurer and vice president during his tenures. Rice took his role on the board seriously, Superintendent Zach Templeton noted in the prepared remarks read by Teel. Board president Dustin Pascoe also recognized Rice in his remarks, noting Rice was "an advocate of accountability and a careful steward of the district's resources."

While Rice does miss being a board member, he said, he still is glad to no longer serve the district in that capacity. "Twenty-five years was a long time. I've seen the good, I've seen the bad and I've seen the very, very ugly. It was good times and bad times, but I wouldn't have changed a thing," he said.

Board Vice President Heather DeMint helped recognize BJ Miller, who was DeMint's former teacher. Miller was a social studies teacher and remedial reading teacher from August 1978 to May 2004. Middle school teachers noted Miller's dedication to education in the prepared remarks read by DeMint. Impressing Miller as a student was a badge of honor middle school social studies teacher Leslie Nichols wrote. Miller still serves the district as a substitute. "I still love having [Miller] in my room today because she continues to bring her passion and respect for the content," Nichols wrote.

Even rough days, in the end, were not bad, Miller said, calling on those present to sign up as substitute teachers.

Mexico Middle School Library assistant Jan Heaton was the next honoree. She served in that role from August 1996 to May 2010. She did spend some time as a substitute but now is officially retired. Heaton is known to have an open and sympathetic ear, teacher Julie Duncan noted in the prepared remarks. "Jan was always ready to listen and help with any problems, keep up with the latest books and catch up with our families," she wrote.

Karen Mossman, who still works in education, but now for the Moberly School District was recognized by board member Nicole Nelson for her years of service in Mexico. Mossman served in many roles from August 1990 to May 2002. She was the coordinator for the drug education program, speech and debate coach, broadcasting teacher, social studies teacher and a substitute teacher.

Her coordination of the drug awareness and peer mediation programs brought awareness to the realities of drinking and driving along with conflict resolution. Her experience in broadcast journalism allowed her to form a journalism program at the school, with many students continuing in journalism studies and careers.

Mossman is a teacher students remember, noted Mexico High School Speech and Debate coach Sara Given in the prepared remarks. "She is active and invested in our community. Her impact reaches all over this world and will continue through the lives she has touched," she wrote.

Murmurings of nostalgia were heard when Betty Kleinsorge's name was called by Pascoe. She was a food service worker, assistant food service manager and finally a food service manager for the district from September 1973 to November 2013.

She was known for all the food she cooked from scratch, which included rolls, cookies and turkey turnovers. Kleinsorge cared deeply for all of the students she served, Sherry Showalt of the Mexico Middle School guidance office noted. Kleinsorge taught all of her staff how to be understanding since one may not know what a student is dealing with, current middle school kitchen manager Sarah Bradley wrote. "Betty was the best kitchen manager. She has the most patience and kindest of hearts," Pascoe said, reading.

Last but not least was Linda Ahmann, who was a Chapter 1 Home Tutoring Program instructor and special education teacher with the district from February to May 1963 and from August 1979 to May 1992. She worked with students who either were blind or severely visually impaired. She was able to find resources and develop strategies used by teachers for those students, teacher Nancy Baker noted.

"[Ahmann] loved her students and believed that each of them had unique gifts. She worked tirelessly to unpack them," Mexico Middle School Principal Deb Haag wrote.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com