Two recent graduates from the School of Education at Missouri Southern State University were recognized Wednesday, March 27, as Outstanding Beginning Teachers.

Nicole Renken, ’18, a math teacher at Carthage Junior High, and Stacy Smith, ’17, a special education teacher at Carthage High School, were among those honored during the Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) conference in Columbia, Mo.

MACTE is a state affiliate of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Every two years, the organization accepts nominations from member institutions around Missouri for up to two first- or second-year teachers.

“I don’t think anyone expects to get this kind of award for their first year of teaching,” said Renken. “I was surprised and very honored.

“I was the assistant director at a daycare for a couple of years. I loved kids, but I also loved math. I did some substituting, and friends who taught at the junior-high level thought I’d be a good teacher. I took their advice (and got my degree) and I did love it, even more than I thought I would.”

Smith said working with children also sparked her interest in becoming a teacher.

“Working in a preschool, I saw all different kinds of learners,” she said. “I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to find out what their needs were and developing strategies to help meet those needs.

“That led me to go to Missouri Southern and get my degree.”

Dr. Susan Craig, associate professor of teacher education at MSSU, said the two recent graduates were very deserving of the award.

“They were both tremendous students and are now tremendous teachers,” said Craig. “I couldn’t be more excited for them.”