Kristen Merrell

Teacher of the Year - Missouri


Never stop dreaming.

I have always been a dreamer. One of my greatest dreams rested in the promise of becoming a teacher. Over time I have come to understand the successes I’ve experienced in life have been due to the freedom I was given by my family, friends, and teachers. My role models guided me and encouraged me to realize my dreams and live them fearlessly. Looking back on the dream path I have journeyed to this point, I recognize my greatest accomplishments in my life have not actually been “mine”. Rather my greatest accomplishments have been those of the boys and girls who overcome hardships, chaos, frustration, and everyday distractions to continue to reach for their goals. Today I continue to dream about teaching, but now my dreams are for my beautiful students.


Great teachers love.

They look for the best in others. They bring out the best in others. They know the secret of love. “Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.” ~Julius Gordon


Education should be provided by well-trained, professional teachers.

Jacques Barzun observed a quarter-century ago, "teaching is not a lost art but the regard for it is a lost tradition. Hence tomorrow's problem will not be to get teachers, but to recognize the good ones and not discourage them before they have done their stint." One of the most important things we can do for children is to provide an excellent teacher in their classroom. Once we get these teachers into the classrooms, we need to support them through strong and effective professional development and mentor programs so that they will stay. Teachers are the vehicle through which all children – regardless of race, social class, cultural background, or special needs – can get a quality education. I believe in what we are doing. I believe we can help the children. I believe in the future.


It is okay to be afraid.

It is okay to make mistakes. It is okay to fail. “Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher


It is all about relationships.

Relationships are the foundation on which learning can occur. Without them, learning will not be successful nor will it be impactful.  Building relationships is the key to student happiness and success. Each child is important and each child deserves time, attention, and effort. Building relationships, boosting confidence, and reflecting daily leads to rewards for the students. Even bigger though are the rewards enjoyed by the teacher witnessing student learning each day.

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is home to Kristen Merrell. It has always been home to her.  She resides in the town’s charming, historic neighborhood with her husband, Tom, and three beautiful children. In addition to teaching in R-7 elementary schools, Merrell has taught at MCC-Longview in the College for Kids and Adults with Disabilities programs. Before joining the R-7 district, she also worked as a dance instructor and assistant director at Steppin’ Out-The Studio and operated her own preschool.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Webster University. Now she is working on her specialist degree in school administration through the University of Central Missouri.
Within the R-7 School District, Merrell has served on school-level leadership, literacy, math, student assistance and technology teams. In addition, she has served on the district’s math and MAP teams and as a literacy lead teacher and Professional Learning Communities coach. She has been a presenter at various workshops in the areas of SMART goals, data collection, literacy, math and differentiated instruction.
Merrell has received 13 Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation PEAK grants over the last seven years, was named Math and Logic Teacher of the Year and was a 2007 state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
“Every day, I have the chance to get up and do something I love – make a difference.”