Brad Stoll takes home $10K prize for contributions ‘to the entire USD 497 community’

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The Lawrence Schools Foundation on Tuesday presented its annual Bobs Award to special education teacher Brad Stoll, who works with students of all abilities across the Lawrence school district through the adaptive P.E. program.

During a surprise ceremony at Lawrence High School, Superintendent Anthony Lewis read snippets of nominations the Lawrence Schools Foundation received for the Excellence in Teaching Award, aka the Bobs Award.

The nominators described Stoll as someone who makes students light up when he walks into a room, a fierce advocate for students with special needs, a successful communicator with families, and a teacher who exhibits creativity and commitment.

“Brad makes significant contributions not only to Lawrence High School, to the Lawrence High School family but also to the entire USD 497 community,” Lewis said. “With his hard work as the head baseball coach, he has a visible presence at LHS, but because he is a physical education teacher for special education students in various buildings throughout the district, his impact is felt throughout the entire district. Coach Stoll’s ability to connect with students with special needs is certainly unmatched.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Superintendent Anthony Lewis lauds adaptive P.E. teacher Brad Stoll before announcing the Bobs Award on May 14, 2024.

The surprise ceremony was attended by current and former students, colleagues, foundation board members, school district representatives and several of Stoll’s family members and friends. Stoll’s oldest son, Jack, was kept in the loop via FaceTime, while Sammy, a senior at LHS, and Stoll’s wife, Emili, flanked the honoree as he was presented with a big $10,000 check and a real check made out for a larger amount to cover taxes.

A surprised Stoll thanked the crowd for the recognition and said he’d watched “a lot of incredible educators” win the award before him.

“So to say I’m honored is an understatement, and I’m kind of blown away. I’m gonna have one hell of a party, I guess,” he joked.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times

Stoll, who graduated from LHS in 1990 and was known then by the nickname “Sludge,” has been head baseball coach for the Chesty Lions for 19 years. He’s worked in the district as an adaptive P.E. teacher for 26 years. He said he felt a great deal of pride to walk into LHS every day, where he’s had the opportunity to coach both of his sons.

“And with the support of my family, it’s been a great run,” Stoll told the crowd.

Pat Grzenda, a former adaptive P.E. teacher for the district, worked with Stoll for 12 years before retiring in 2011. She said Stoll had helped “every kind of kid” across the spectrum of abilities and ages. Last week, Grzenda was there when Stoll worked the crowd while emceeing the Pat Grzenda Triathlon and awards ceremony — an event Stoll helped launch in honor of Grzenda.

“He has touched so many hearts,” Grzenda said. “He has such an energy and enthusiasm, it’s contagious. I love him so much.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Pat Grzenda and Brad Stoll share a laugh on May 14, 2024.

Laura Brensing, a colleague for nine years, said it was an honor to nominate Stoll.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Brensing said. “He deserves this honor. He’s so great with our adaptive students, and it’s so fun to watch the relationships he has with them.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Laura Brensing congratulates Brad Stoll.
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Adaptive P.E. paraeducator Willie McKinnis Jr. said he had twice nominated Stoll for the award. McKinnis, who has worked with Stoll for 10 years, referred to his supervisor as a mentor, friend, and a genuinely nice human being, as well as a co-worker he’d love to hang out with outside the workday.

“The main thing I’ve learned from Brad … whether you have a special needs student or just a regular ‘Joe’ off the street, treat everybody the same,” McKinnis said.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Brad Stoll hugs adaptive P.E. paraeducator Willie “Pookie” McKinnis Jr.

Stoll reflected on receiving the award after the ceremony.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said. “I mean, I just had a nice little moment with Val (Schrag) and Susie (Mička), who have won it in the past. And when I was standing up there, once I realized it was the Bobs Award, I thought of all the people that I’ve worked with that have won it.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Recent Bobs Award winners pose with the 2024 winner, Brad Stoll. At left is Susie Mička and at right is Valerie Schrag.

In addition to Schrag and Mička, Stoll recalled more “elite educators” who’ve won the Bobs Award, including Michael Carriger and Deb Engstrom.

“To be kind of in that same group is flattering. I’m so honored. I just, I love Lawrence High. I love all those kids I work with,” Stoll said. “To see all my students here and then obviously a bunch of my baseball team. It just is a really special moment.”

Stoll described his job as unique because he’s able to work in multiple schools — he estimated 10 elementaries over the years — and with not only K-12 students but also with the district’s C-Tran students, who typically range from ages 18 to 21.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Brad Stoll celebrates the Bobs Award with current and former students on May 14, 2024.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Adaptive P.E. students attend the Bobs Award ceremony at Lawrence High School.

Stoll thanked his family members and especially his wife, Emili, for supporting him.

“I just think, I think my wife deserves a lot of credit, too, because she might be the greatest coach’s wife of all time. She’s been beyond supportive of me,” Stoll said. “She’s a great educator and a great mom and a great coach as well.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Dena Johnston, executive director of the Lawrence Schools Foundation, talks about the Bobs Award while the Stoll family listens. From left are Emili, Brad and Sammy Stoll. Jack Stoll attended via FaceTime.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Brad Stoll and his son Sammy Stoll embrace at Lawrence High School after Brad received the 2024 Bobs Award.

The Bobs Award is funded by donations. Tuesday’s event marked the 28th annual announcement of the award, which began when a group of Lawrence business leaders — all named Bob — contributed to the prize. Today there are 15 “Bobs,”including sons and daughters of the original group. They also help sponsor an annual winter award of $5,000 for a Lawrence educator.

Nominations for the Bobs Award may be submitted by students, staff, colleagues, alumni and community members, according to the nomination form; however teachers may not nominate themselves.  This year’s nomination deadline was April 30.

The 2023-24 school year wraps up for the Lawrence school district next week.

Here’s a list of previous recipients of the Excellence in Teaching Award:

1997 – Val Howland (Broken Arrow Elementary School)
1998 – Gary Webber (Southwest Junior High School)
1999 – Sue Siegfried (Woodlawn Elementary School)
2000 – Dr. Victoria Beals (South Junior High School)
2001 – Pamela Bushouse (Free State High School)
2002 – Brian “Chip” Anderson (Lawrence High School)
2003 – Kathy Rathbun (Langston Hughes Elementary School)
2004 – Paula Barr (Hillcrest Elementary School)
2005 – Kathleen Wagner (West Junior High School)
2006 – Mary Chapman (Free State High School)
2007 – Sherry Vratil (Wakarusa Valley School)
2008 – Deb Engstrom (Lawrence High School)
2009 – Paulette Breithaupt (Sunset Hill Elementary School)
2010 – Christy Kelly (Cordley Elementary School)
2011 – Renee Babin (Schwegler Elementary School)
2012 – Michael Carriger (Lawrence High School)
2013 – Ryan McAdoo (Hillcrest Elementary School)
2014 – Jordan Rose (Free State High School)
2015 – Mike Jones and Rachel Dirks (Lawrence High School)
2016 – Scott Forkenbrock (Liberty Memorial Central Middle School)
2017 – Stu Strecker (Free State High School)
2018 – Michele Duncan (Sunset Hill Elementary School)
2019 – Susan Lomshek (Schwegler Elementary School)
2020 – Kaitlin Shulman (Quail Run Elementary School)
2021 – Susan Mička (Lawrence High School)
2022 – Sam Rabiola (Free State High School)
2023 – Valerie Schrag (Lawrence High School)

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Brad Stoll, adaptive P.E. teacher, and Quentin Rials, principal at Lawrence High School, prepare for a special announcement.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Kylee Chee holds Brad Stoll’s big check.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Sammy and Emili Stoll
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Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Lawrence High School alum Tavaris Davie takes a photo with Brad Stoll.
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Molly Adams / Lawrence Times School board member GR Gordon-Ross congratulates Brad Stoll on May 14, 2024.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Baseball team members and coaches attend the ceremony on May 14, 2024.
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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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