Caleb Rahmeier wins $5K teaching prize from Lawrence Schools Foundation

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West Middle School students and staff celebrated paraprofessional Caleb Rahmeier on Tuesday with the Dedication to Education award and a $5,000 prize.

The Lawrence Schools Foundation presented the annual honor during a surprise ceremony before winter break. Rahmeier received the award surrounded by students, colleagues, foundation board members, school district leaders and a dozen family members and friends.

A video presentation at the assembly thanked Rahmeier and lauded his contributions during the four years he’s worked at West but especially for his dedication during the last two years while working with eighth grader Darby Bates.

“You are the best,” Darby told Rahmeier in the tribute.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Darby Bates and Caleb Rahmeier celebrate at an assembly honoring Rahmeier, 2023 recipient of the Lawrence Schools Foundation’s Dedication to Education Award.

“He helps me get my work done,” Darby said and then paused. “Mostly on time,” he continued amid laughs from the crowd.

After the presentation, Kelli Bates, Darby’s mother, said Rahmeier and her son have a unique relationship. That dynamic includes a playful nature while also attending to business.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Justin and Kelli Bates

Kelli said Rahmeier gave her and her husband, Justin Bates, “such peace of mind with Darby’s health complications” and the family “thinks the world of him,” which led them to nominate Rahmeier for the award.

“Paraprofessionals just don’t make enough, so we were just so thrilled that he won the award,” Kelli said.

“He made my school year very easy,” Darby said.

Rahmeier also received praise from colleagues, who described him as easygoing, flexible, a team player, dedicated, personable, kind, consistent and funny.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Award recipient Caleb Rahmeier shares a laugh with West Middle School Principal Therese Brink Edgecomb on Dec. 19, 2023.

West Principal Therese Brink Edgecomb pointed out his dedication to students.

“One of the things he has to do, and he does very well, is he has to advocate for students,” Edgecomb said. “He knows what their physical, their academic, their social, emotional needs are.”

Jessica Rohrberg, a physical therapist for Lawrence Public Schools and 2019 recipient of the award, said she had witnessed the positive effects Rahmeier has had on students, especially Darby.

“He’s just so empowered this year … and I think that’s something we have to honor,” Rohrberg said.

The school relies heavily on Rahmeier, said Joel Grillot, eighth grade interrelated resource teacher and special education department chair at West.

“We’re just lucky to have him. We really are,” Grillot said.

Rahmeier is a lifelong Lawrencian and graduate of Lawrence Public Schools. He attended Schwegler Elementary for kindergarten, Sunflower Elementary, Southwest Middle School and Lawrence High School.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Family members and friends surround Caleb Rahmeier and his big check after the ceremony.

Clad in buffalo plaid for pajamas day, Rahmeier said receiving the award felt awesome yet overwhelming. Family members and Edgecomb suggested Rahmeier continue pursuing his educational and career dreams.

Edgecomb said Rahmeier possessed a special quality of professionalism and understanding of students.

“I have thought about going back to school and getting a teacher’s license since I started working here,” Rahmeier said.

Rahmeier’s mother traveled to Lawrence from Murphy, Texas, to attend the assembly. DeAnn Rahmeier said she believed her son thrived as a paraprofessional because of the one-on-one working relationship with Darby and other students.

“He really, really enjoys this,” she said.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Mother and son, DeAnn and Caleb Rahmeier, share a moment during an all-school assembly at West Middle School on Dec. 19, 2023.

Dena Johnston, executive director of Lawrence Schools Foundation, said the foundation would cut a check for $6,000 to Rahmeier in order to cover taxes on the award.

Certified staff members and paraeducators employed by Lawrence Public Schools qualify for nomination, according to the foundation’s website. Nominees must support “Learning for all, whatever it takes” to help challenged and/or disadvantaged students learn, and nominees must demonstrate dedication to the success of every student.

Nominations are accepted from colleagues, parents, students, alumni and community members. Self-nominations do not qualify. The winner was chosen by the foundation with input from Superintendent Anthony Lewis, according to the nomination form.

A group of community members sponsors the Bobs Awards, which includes the Dedication to Education and Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Dedication to Education Award recipients:

2007 – Jim Immel (Early Childhood Center)
2008 – Mary Ann Henry (South Junior High School)
2009 – Mary Chamberlin (Pinckney Elementary School)
2010 – Charlotte Lauts (Lawrence High School)
2011 – Lori Sinclair (Woodlawn Elementary School)
2012 – Ron Swall (Lawrence Free State High School)
2013 – Morgan Randle (Southwest Middle School)
2014 – Heather Lee (Lawrence High School)
2015 – Cara McNorton (Kennedy Elementary School)
2016 – Kim Fuller (South Middle School)
2017 – Leah Henry (Juvenile Detention Center)
2018 – Mike Harris (Sunflower Elementary School)
2019 – Jessica Rohrberg (District Wide Physical Therapist)
2020 – Baileigh Faler (Broken Arrow Elementary)
2021 – Erin McDaneld-Campbell (Free State High School)
2022 – Brandon Daley (Woodlawn Elementary)

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Students and staff from West Middle School assemble on Dec. 19, 2023.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Caleb Rahmeier receives a big check from his mother, DeAnn Rahmeier, alongside Lawrence Superintendent of Schools Anthony Lewis.

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Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Caleb Rahmeier is recognized by Dena Johnston, executive director of Lawrence Schools Foundation.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Colleagues Jessica Rohrberg and Caleb Rahmeier hug.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Dena Johnston
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Caleb Rahmeier
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Caleb Rahmeier hugs his brother Nathan Rahmeier while his brother Casey Rahmeier (left) and aunt Deneise Schneider (right) watch.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Caleb Rahmeier takes in the moment with his mom, DeAnn Rahmeier (left) and his aunt Deneise Schneider (right).
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Board members of Lawrence Schools Foundation and administrative leaders from Lawrence Public Schools surround Caleb Rahmeier and his big check on Dec. 19, 2023.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Caleb Rahmeier (center) watches while his brother, Nathan Rahmeier (left), shakes hands with Darby Bates.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Caleb Rahmeier proudly holds a Pokémon card he keeps on his lanyard with his ID badge. It is signed by his students.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Darby Bates carries on a conversation with Caleb Rahmeier’s mom, DeAnn Rahmeier.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Darby Bates talks while his mom, Kelli Bates, listens.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times From left, Caleb Rahmeier, Darby Bates and Bob Rahmeier smile for a photo after Caleb received the Dedication to Excellence Award from the Lawrence Schools Foundation on Dec. 19, 2023.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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