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New kindergarten teacher named West Newsmagazine’s teacher of the year

By: Bonnie Krueger

Dr. Natalie Kane with her kindergarten students [Rockwood School District]

Dr. Natalie Kane [center] with [from left to right] Tammy Noel of Sylvan Learning Centers, Brenda Tucker of Busey Bank, Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost, Principal Dr. Lorinda Krey and West Newsmagazine publisher Sharon Huber. [Rockwood School District photo]

After more than a decade of teaching preschool, deciding to step away to teach kindergarten was one of the most difficult decisions Dr. Natalie Kane had ever made – personally and professionally. But clearly, it was an inspired move.

Kane is the 2018 recipient of West Newsmagazine’s Excellence in Education award, having received numerous nominations from families at Fairway Elementary in Wildwood.

For the first 14 years of her career, Kane taught preschool, the last nine as part of the Rockwood Early Childhood program. Approximately four years ago, she earned her doctorate in educational leadership from Missouri Baptist University.

“I absolutely loved my job and still believe that Rockwood has one of the best early childhood programs around,” Kane said. “But a job came up in Fairway and my daughter will be an elementary student soon and I thought it was the perfect time to make the switch so that both of us could be there.”

Parents and students alike are happy she made the switch, as evidenced by the eight nominations she received. The nomination from Alex Hyers particularly touched her heart. He wrote, “She teaches my brother Jake and loves everyone just the same. My brother is so smart now and loves school.”

Kane always high-fives and says hello to Alex in the halls. “A student I’ve never had as my own saw the impact I’ve had on his brother. I’m incredibly touched he wanted to nominate me,” she said.

A clever ruse brought Kane and her students into the art room on May 17, where West Newsmagazine publisher Sharon Huber and local sponsors Brenda Tucker, of Busey Bank, and Tammy Noel, of Sylvan Learning Centers, were on hand to surprise her along with her husband, Matt, and their children. Other sponsors of the annual award include Dream Play Recreation, McDonald’s of Town & Country and Chesterfield Valley and Schrader Funeral Home, Inc. Also in on the surprise were Principal Dr. Lorinda Krey and Rockwood Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost.

“I’m excited for Dr. Kane to be honored with this recognition. She is a true kid advocate who is selflessly interested in helping all of her students find success and happiness,” Knost said.

Krey found it difficult to put into words what Kane’s presence has meant to the Fairway community. “It’s one thing to have a skill set for teaching, but it’s quite something else to possess such innate qualities of human compassion, empathy, integrity and service for others. Not only does Natalie exude these essential qualities, but these are the traits she inspires in her students and colleagues every single day,” Krey shared. “Natalie truly believes that her classroom is about more than just learning; it’s about loving each other, building each other up and celebrating life.”

It was compassion that inspired Dan Flaschar, whose son Stanley was Kane’s student this year, to be one of her nominators.

“My son Stanley had to get a patch over his eye this year. She educated the entire class on why, made him feel like he was the coolest kid in the class, and even wore a patch with him on his first day having to wear it. She is a great educator, but an even better person,” Flaschar wrote.

Responding to that nomination, Kane said, “The Flaschar family is one of those families who will always tell you when you are doing something right, but honestly, I am just doing my job. Wearing the eye patch with him showed him that he belonged. It’s making those connections when they are young that builds that trust and sense of community.”

Kane recognizes the importance of setting the tone for all the school years that will follow and wants to be the teacher that students remember fondly.

“I treat my students and parents like I would want to be treated,” she said.

Kane said the surprise left her “as flabbergasted as I’ve ever been in my life.”

“I am incredibly thankful for this most wonderful honor. It’s a moment I’ll treasure forever. Fairway is a remarkable school, and I feel blessed to work with these students. I am honored and forever grateful.”

A group of parents who nominated Dr. Natalie Kane [Rockwood School District photo]

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