England-Miller, Oldenkamp, Fankhauser, awarded Teachers of the Year

Amber-Starr Oldenkamp Teacher of the Year (left) for South Fork Union School District and teacher from the South Fork Elementary, Annette Thomey

Photos and story by Catherine Stachowiak

The Kern Valley Exchange Club awarded Teachers of the Year, Thursday May 16, from Kernville Union School District, South Fork Union School District and Kern Valley High School.  Paradise Cove Lodge hosted the awards luncheon.

Alan Paradise from Kern Valley High School introduced Kern Valley High School’s Teacher of the Year, Maghan (England) Miller.  Paradise said, “With positive energy, and a contagious smile, Maghan Miller’s super power is to motivate.  She makes everyone feel important. “

Paradise said Miller spends immense numbers of hours caring for students, helping students excel in local, regional and state competitions impacting the community positively through Future Farmers of America (FFA,) as Science Department and CTE department chair and she teaches a floral design class. 

Miller and her team brought 27 students to FFA State Conference in Sacramento for four days during spring break.  She also participated in FFA newsletter, FFA Christmas tree sale, and Christmas clothing drive. With her help the FFA funded toiletries kits to 150 students, FFA held its annual drive thru barbeque, a Houchin blood drive, a staff appreciation breakfast, the FFA chapter banquet, and the FFA volunteers for Veterans Day Flags, among other events.  This school year has been Miller’s fourth year in the valley. 

“Thank you guys for everything you do for students,” said Miller.  “This community is unique, the kids are incredible.”     

Amber-Starr Oldenkamp won Teacher of the Year for South Fork Union School District. Teacher from the South Fork Elementary, Annette Thomey told the audience, “Amber is newer to South Fork. We interviewed her and her heart for kids was burning through the computer screen.  For the only time in my career, when we hung up from that call, I told my then boss ‘you need to hire her now or else we won’t get her. Someone else will take her because of her heart for the kids.” 

Oldenkamp came to the valley from Rancho Cucamonga. Thomey said, “The first year she was here was last year. She worked with Dianne Hinkey a former teacher of the year. She formerly worked with students with severely special needs.”  

This year Oldenkamp took on the role of head of the Special Education Department.  In that capacity she did 104 Individualized Education Programs (IEPs.)  She assisted special needs kids participating in the Color Run.  “Every part of her is about helping us, helping the kids, helping everyone in our community be better,” Thomey said. 

Oldenkamp said, “This is my second year here, my third year moving up here. I’ve loved every minute of it. I just want to say thank you to everyone that’s welcomed me.”  

Winner of the Teacher of the Year Award for Kernville Union School District was Wallace Elementary School, grade 3 teacher Jen Fankhauser, who was also a former employee of the Kern Valley Sun.  

Principal of Wallace Elementary School, Karen Greenhaw said, “I can’t say enough wonderful things about Jennifer as a teacher and as a person. She is extremely humble.  All the students in her classroom truly enjoy being in her room every single day.”

Fankhauser creates amazing interactive activities for her students, which are engaging, hands on, meeting the needs of all the different students.  Greenhaw said, “She takes the time to really get to know her students as well as take the time to support them as well as they need.  She’s always there to really support all of the kids.”

Fankhauser taught at the middle school, the previous year, before returning to Wallace.  “The connections and relationships she builds with students is absolutely amazing. And I can’t think of another teacher on our campus who deserves the recognition of Teacher of the Year more,” Greenhaw said. 

Fankhauser said, “My joy is just making them (students) excited to come to class and excited be there and excited to learn.  I’m very appreciative of all the support.”

President of the exchange club John Blythe said,  “Thank you all because the Exchange Club does a lot for the youth.  If it wasn’t for the schools, the administrators, the principals, God knows where some of these kids would go to. So I appreciate everything that the schools here in the valley do for our kids.”   

Amber-Starr Oldenkamp Teacher of the Year South Fork Union School District (left) with President of the exchange club John Blythe
President of KV Exchange Club John Blythe (left) awarded Maghan England-Miller of Kern Valley High School Teacher of the Year
Kernville Union School District Teacher of the Year Jen Fankhauser