Meet 5 Teachers Making a Difference in the KiwiCo Community

Jun 2, 2021 / By Cailyn Bradley

Every year, we celebrate teachers for all the amazing work they do in inspiring the next generation of innovators. This year in particular, we wanted to recognize teachers who have gone above and beyond for their students, while navigating new challenges that come with distance learning. So, we launched the Awesome Teacher Award as a way for our community to share stories about the incredible teachers in their lives.

We received hundreds of applications for our Awesome Teacher Award, and after careful consideration, we selected five exceptional winners! These teachers are not only awesome, but they also embody KiwiCo’s mission and values. They will receive awards of $2,000 in KiwiCo products and $500 in cash.

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Mr. Wisam Patros

Grade & subject: 6th grade math & science
School: Cajon Valley Middle School in El Cajon, California

Go-to advice for students: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” If students want to be successful they have to take in the knowledge, the lessons, and the opportunities that come in front of them. No one else will do it for them. They have to be willing to seize life at the door, no matter what setting they are in. That is how success happens.

I have been teaching for seven amazing years! I can proudly say that I have been teaching all seven of those years at my alma mater of Cajon Valley Middle School. I feel extremely blessed giving back to the students and community that helped bring me up as a first generation Middle Eastern immigrant. Every one of my teachers was instrumental in my life because they played a pivotal role in my ability to fluently speak, read, write, problem solve, become curious, and take on what the real world has to offer.

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Ms. Sapeg

Grade & subject: 5th grade math
School: P.S. 173 in New York City, New York

Go-to advice for students: Work hard at everything, nothing in life is promised. But if you want to achieve something even with natural talent, you must work for it!

Ever since I was in the first grade, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. I loved reading and learning new things. As I got older, my passion for this path became clearer. I chose my college, Pace University; intentionally with a great program in which I would graduate with my bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before starting my teaching career.

I started teaching in the LES at PS 140; the school where I had my student teaching experience. There, I had wonderful mentor teachers. They helped me improve my craft and showed me that while teaching can be hard, it is worth the while to make a difference in the life of children. I now teach in the neighborhood where I grew up!

Ms. Linda Ehlers

Grade & subject: 7th & 8th grade all subjects
School: Harrison Public School in Harrison, Montana

Go-to advice for students: “Pay attention to the details.” This is my advice for all the students I have met along the way. If you pay attention to the details, success will follow.

My mother was my 1st grade teacher. She fostered my love for the outdoors and the wonder of science and exploring how the world around us worked. Because of her, I was led down the path to sharing this love with others. I have been able to teach science concepts across many grade levels and subject areas, from 1st grade to 8th grade. Thanks to KiwiCo, many of the supplies provided will be used as building blocks to assist in reaching our end goals and understanding the physical science concepts behind what we are accomplishing!

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Mr. Justin Mack

Grade & subject: TK- 6th grade STEM
School: Washington School in Santa Barbara, California

Go-to advice for students: Innovation, perseverance, and appropriate risks are the “secret sauce” to good living! Don’t be afraid to try, fail, make changes, and try again! Failure is a delightful teacher!

The following are a few fun facts about myself and the STEMeriffic life I am fortunate to enjoy. I have been married for over 26 years and love being a dad of two sons AND grandfather of one. For rest and relaxation I love surfing, tacos, reading, and naps….preferably all at the same time. I was born in Los Angeles, CA I have lived, studied, and worked in a variety of cities from Barstow, CA to Oxford, UK to Seattle, WA and back to Santa Barbara where I was raised. My “strange claim to fame” is that I have eaten snake and guinea pig in the Andes mountains as a 15 year old exchange student in beautiful Ecuador. Yes…they both taste like chicken! Finally, I love education and have enjoyed studies at Westmont College, Oxford University, and Fuller Theological Seminary before earning a second M.A. in Education and being hired for my dream job as a STEM Teacher fostering design and engineering thinking plus innovation in TK-6th grade students! Thank you again KiwiCo for your generous award!

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Mrs. Brandy Gwatney

Grade & subject: 2nd grade all subjects
School: Mountain Springs Elementary in Cabot, Arkansas

Go-to advice for students: Always remember to dream BIG and reach for the stars!

When I was six years old, my mother passed away from cancer within a few days of Christmas. The love and care my teacher and principal showed me had nothing to do with academics. They were an example that teachers provide so much more in the daily life of a child. My teacher and principal showed me that relationships with students go beyond numbers, letters, and words. I was the child that needed the social and emotional stability before the academics.

Congratulations once again to these five awesome teachers!

As a company whose mission is to inspire future innovators and problem solvers, KiwiCo is honored to be standing hand-in-hand with all the schools and educators who share this goal. We’re here to encourage students to work together, solve real problems, and create something amazing. See how KiwiCo can bring seriously fun STEAM learning into the classroom.