Special education teacher Kaitlyn Jilka was surprised on Monday to learn she had been selected as a Horizon Award winner

Lincoln Elementary special education teacher Kaitlyn Jilka was surprised on Monday to learn she had been selected as a Kansas Cable Telecommunications Horizon Award winner.

The Horizon Award program, sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association, recognizes representatives of excellent teaching across the state.

Jilka, who teaches kindergarten through second grade special education, was nominated by Lincoln Principal Lyle Dosser. The news she had won was revealed on Monday when she received a phone call from Dr. Diane DeBacker, Kansas commissioner of education.

On hand to share the news with her were Augusta USD 402 Superintendent Dr. John Black and Miles Harvey, assistant director of Butler County Special Education.

Harvey expressed excitement in that two Butler County Horizon winners are special education teachers.

“We couldn’t be more proud of Andover Central Middle School special education teacher Roxana Smith and Kaitlyn Jilka, here at Lincoln,” he said.

This is Jilka’s second year teaching at Lincoln Elementary. She grew up in Clay Center and graduated from McPherson College with a degree in elementary education. She has a husband, Ryan.

“Kids are fun. I enjoy them a lot,” she said. “The biggest challenge has been knowing where to start with the kids. How far behind are they, how to catch them up and get through to them.”

She expressed appreciation for the four paraprofessionals who assist her each day.

“We are very proud of her dedication and appreciate her work,” Black said.

As an Horizon Award winner Jilka will receive special recognition during the KEEN State Education Conference held each February in Topeka, and receive a cash award from the Kansas Cable Telecommunications Association.

Belinda Larsen can be reached at blarsen@butlercountytimesgazette.com.