Teachers, Support Staff Receive Hopkins Awards

May 6, 2016 | District News Release

Hopkins Foundation Recognizes Four School Employees

Three teachers and a school secretary are the Emporia Public Schools most recent Hopkins Award recipients.

leisa_wecker randy_wells erica_huggard jane_pientkaJane Pientka, secretary at Walnut Elementary School, received an award this afternooon at a surprise assembly at her school. Later, Hopkins awards were presented to Randy Wells, an Emporia High School physical education teacher, and Erica Huggard, EHS science teacher. The final award was presented to Liesa Wecker, kindergarten teacher at Logan Avenue Elementary School.

All four honorees received $2,000 cash awards from Michelle Hopkins-Molinaro, vice president and managing director of the foundation. Each employee also will receive another $1,000 to spend on something to benefit a specific school or district program.

Pientka has worked for the district since 1989, first as a department clerk at EHS and most recently as the Walnut School secretary. One of the individuals who nominated her for a Hopkins Award wrote, “She is an inspiration to the students. She works incredibly hard behind the scenes, making sure the school runs smoothly. She goes out of her way to help students and staff.”

Huggard and Wells received their awards during the EHS Senior Honors Assembly. Huggard has taught science at EHS since 2007. One of her nominators wrote, “She is a professional who always excels in staying up to date and who is willing to accept new responsibilities and step into new roles as needed. She is not only a fantastic teacher, but an even better person.”

Wells has been a teacher and coach at EHS since 1990. One of his nominations read, ” He puts in countless hours learning new ways to help students become better people through setting goals and accomplishing them and having a good work ethic. He values hard work and demonstrates it every day to students and adults.”

Wecker has taught kindergarten at Logan Avenue since 1999. One of her nominators wrote, “She has a great sense of humor, works well with others, and is truly a wonderful person to work with. Her relationships with students last a lifetime, and the students truly remember the sense of humor, love and caring given to them.

With today’s awards, the Hopkins Foundation has given approximately $387,000 to 194 teachers and support staff members in the Emporia schools since the inception of the awards in 2002. The awards program was a dream of Molinaro’s grandfather, E.L. Hopkins, as a way to reward educators.

Hopkins Award nominations can be submitted anytime during the year by parents, student and staff. An online nomination form is available on the district website. A selection committee meets at least quarterly to review nominations and select winners.


The recipients of the award are individuals who have gone above and beyond their normal job responsibilities. Winners exemplify one or more of these criteria:

  • Innovation/Initiative/Simplification that demonstrates leadership or participation in a project or process of improvement that aligns with the district mission and/or streamlines operations.
  • Collaboration as one team, school or district that demonstrates an outstanding commitment to teamwork by thinking creatively, removing internal boundaries and communicating effectively.
  • Noteworthy Service that is extraordinary and exceeds expectations.
  • Inspiring others to try new things or excel in new ways.
  • Commitment to excellence in any endeavor that enhances the workplace and creates a positive work environment and culture of learning.
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