At the annual Missouri Association of Rural Education (M.A.R.E.) fall conference held at the Country Club Hotel and Spa in Lake Ozark, MO October 26-28, Lakeland teacher, Ms. Joni Cook was recognized as Missouri's Outstanding Rural Secondary Teacher for 2014-15. Ms. Joni Cook has spent 25 years in education with the last 8 years being at Lakeland High School. Besides being the high school librarian and teaching social studies, Ms. Cook is credited with implementing and coordinating the Night School program for Lakeland High School. This program contains the homework help program, the after school credit recovery program, and assists with the Missouri Options program. Ms. Cook also coordinates all the online learning courses for those in the after school credit recovery program and those taking online classes for flexible scheduling/credit recovery during the school day. She has been instrumental in the immediate jump of the school's graduation from 69% in 2011 to having a range of 83-88% over the past three years. Ms. Cook also sponsors the junior high academic team, co-sponsors the junior class, and sponsors the Lakeland Chapters of National Honors' Society and Future Teachers of America. Ms. Cook is also a member of the High School Leadership Team.
Ms. Cook's principal, Dr. Steve Ritter, commented, "This is a great honor for Ms. Cook, our faculty, and our school. Ms. Cook has been an integral part of the changes and success we have had here at Lakeland. She has always been willing to be flexible, take on new roles, and dedicate additional time to help our students be successful. We have a great team here at Lakeland, and we are very fortunate to have Ms. Cook as part of it." Lakeland Superintednent, Mr. Mitch Towne added, "We are very proud of Ms. Cook. It is great that others recognize what has always been clear to us at Lakeland. Ms.Cook is an outstanding educator and a great asset for our school. She helps our students, faculty, and staff in countless ways and I feel privileged to work with her."
Ms. Cook was presented with a banner on October 31 that will be on display for the rest of the 2014-15 school year near the high school office to recognize and celebrate her accomplishment.
Each year, M.A.R.E. requests and receives nominations from member districts for individuals and school districts to receive consdieration for these awards. Each selected recipient is then honored at the organization's annual conference. M.A.R.E. is a statewide organization created to serve its members school districts by promoting equal opportunity for rural Missouri students; by enhancing rural student academic potential; and by creating justifiable pride in the state's rural education programs. Exisitng in Missouri for the last 27 years, the organization is operated by a statewide elected board and executive director. M.A.R.E. currently consits of 452 members including K-8 and K-12 School Districts, individuals, and associate members. The current president, Mr. Eric Cooley, presented the awards. M.A.R.E.'s Executive Director is Dr. Ray Patrick with the association's office in Warrensburg, MO. Their website is www.moare.com