September Teacher of the Month Highlight: Kalla Sawyer and Milissa Birnie

ANSLEY—As part of the Brent Custer Shelter Insurance Teacher of the Month Program, KCNI/KBBN would like to recognize the September Teachers of the Month Milissa Birnie and Kalla Sawyer!

Ansley’s Milissa Birnie is recognized as one of September’s Teachers of the Month by Shelter Insurance! (KCNI/KBBN is hoping to interview Mrs. Birnie. We might have to get our boss involved to see if he can pull any strings.) Milissa has been at Ansley Public Schools since the fall of 2012. She says it has been an honor to work with some of Custer County’s finest students, as well as exceptionally hard-working staff. She and her husband Paul live on a ranch south of Broken Bow with their son Oliver. They are also lucky to have their oldest son Hunter, his wife Faith, and their daughter Thea close to them as well. They love to travel, camp, and attend concerts. Any time with family around is their favorite time.

KCNI/KBBN spoke with Kalla Sawyer who has been teaching art and coaching one-act in Ansley for five years. Prior to teaching at Ansley, she worked in numerous long-term subbing positions in Litchfield and gained a lot of invaluable experience. She has been married for 13 years to her husband Kurt, and together they have two wonderful daughters, Lauren and Morgan. She truly feels that teaching art is what she was meant to do, and teaching art in Ansley feels like home.

KCNI/KBBN: What does it mean to you to be named teacher of the month/How does that make you feel?

Mrs. Sawyer: “I am very honored. It’s a very special award I think to be recognized as one of the teachers in a very large county but I do appreciate it! It was very much a surprise, I wasn’t expecting that so when I saw the email that I had been nominated and selected, I felt very honored,” Sawyer said.

KCNI/KBBN: How long have you been a teacher? How long at Ansley?

Mrs. Sawyer: She received her degree from UNK in 2013 but she learned her first daughter was due around the start of school so she took a few years to be with her family after college before going back into teaching. She gives a lot of credit to Litchfield schools for allowing her to work in long-term substitute positions and experience many growing opportunities.

“It’s such a beautiful, small little school and such a fun, tight-knit community. Ultimately I ended up landing in Ansley which the two schools co-op so the right doors opened at the right time.” She has been teaching art in Ansley for the last five years.

KCNI/KBBN: What are some of the biggest lessons you try to teach your students?

Mrs. Sawyer: She says she knows most of her students probably won’t become famous artists or even pursue art, “but what I do know is that I am building these great relationships with these kids and I just truly want them to understand that I am there to support them in whatever avenue they take or choose in life.”

“Really, truly as educators I think our goal is to produce strong members of future communities and good law-abiding citizens so I think the role of teacher is so much more than just educator. I think as an art teacher, I do get to fill that role probably more so than I realize. I truly just enjoy hanging out with my students and creating art. I tell people all the time I have the best job in the school. I get to teach little kids all the way up to seniors so I just get a little bit of everything all day long so I really truly have the best job ever,” Sawyer said.

KCNI/KBBN: What are some of the lessons your students have taught you?

Mrs. Sawyer: Patience! Sawyer said teaching is a unique profession where one day you are at your wit’s end but the next day you have an “a-ha” moment with a student and you get to watch them make strides, learn, and grow. She said teachers and students are all in it together. Says she has the best students and loves where she works!