Kern County Teachers of the Year announced
Kern County Superintendent of Schools
May 14, 2022
Frontier High School Special Education Teacher Kurt Keckley, Literacy Intervention Teacher Kelsea Linnell from Elk Hills School and 8th grade History teacher Hanna Rahberger from Cato Middle School have been named 2022 Kern County Teachers of the Year finalists.
The selections were announced this evening at a reception sponsored by Valley Strong Credit Union at CSU Bakersfield. In all, 57 Kern County teachers were nominated for the honor.
The three finalists are now eligible to apply for the California Teacher of the Year program. The two most competitive applications as determined by the Kern County Teacher of the Year Selection Committee will be submitted to the California Department of Education (CDE) to be considered for the California Teacher of the Year honor.
Congratulations to this year’s finalists:
Special Education Teacher
Frontier High School
Kern High School District
Kurt Keckley has been a special education teacher for the Kern High School District for 22 years. His life’s work in education has centered around closing the achievement gap for students with disabilities, setting goals beyond graduation and preparing them for a successful adult life. He believes the foundation of educational success is built on a disciplined classroom with mutual respect between teacher and students.
Outside of the classroom, Kurt established and continues to run clubs that reach under-served youth through the TITAN gaming club and Frontier’s Esports team. In 2011, Kurt began designing a game to teach about the First World War called “Fields of Despair.” The game was published in 2017. In 2018, the United States Military Academy West Point professor, Lt. Col. Channing Greene, reached out to Kurt about using his game as an instructional tool for a course he was teaching at West Point. They collaborated on lesson design and implementation. The lessons were so successful at grabbing and keeping the cadets’ attention that Lt. Col. Greene was asked to present about their work together at a military conference. Kurt never imagined his teaching career would lead him to working on lessons for West Point, and for this project, Lt. Col. Greene has expressed his appreciation to Kurt for “his extraordinary contribution to the teaching profession and to his country.”
K-8 Literacy Intervention Teacher
Elk Hills School
Elk Hills School District
Kelsea Linnell is an innovative and dynamic instructor of nearly 20 years who takes the time to understand the progress of each of her students and adapts instruction to meet their individual needs. Kelsea’s leadership skills have been highlighted this year, as she coordinated, designed, and implemented a new literacy intervention program from the ground up and took on the lead role in the effort to shift the climate and culture around reading. As a result of Kelsea’s data and research-based practices, every grade level has demonstrated improvement in literacy.
Kelsea has also focused on integrating activities and events that highlight reading as an important and enjoyable activity. For example, Kelsea created a “book tasting” event, which included decorating a room to look like an outdoor cafe with flowers, candles, tablecloths, string lights and music. She then selected books from a wide variety of genres for students to “taste” at each table. After reading a small sample of each book, students wrote down the titles of books they would like to further explore. Students were excited and engaged as they let themselves open up to books they’d never read before.
8th Grade History Teacher
Paul L. Cato Middle School
Bakersfield City School District
After nearly 17 years in education, Hanna Rahberger cannot imagine her life without the students who fill her classroom for 180 days each year. Her goal is to create an environment structured enough to promote student confidence, but flexible enough to allow students freedom to influence their own learning.
For Hanna, a foundational belief that drives her instruction is: when teachers provide engaging and purposeful learning experiences, students show up to learn. Hanna works tirelessly to find and implement rigorous and engaging units of study. Each year, she reflects and includes the successful lessons from prior years, while weaving in new strategies and ideas.
As History Department Chair and Professional Learning Community (PLC) leader, Hanna has had the opportunity to build professional development tailored to the needs of the team. Her belief in collaboration extends beyond the bounds of her own school and district and includes teachers in other districts who Hanna has mentored as student teachers. Additionally, during the pandemic, Hanna was on the KCSOS History Curriculum Team, assisting with the development of virtual lesson plans for History on the Canvas platform which were implemented across all participating districts nationally.