Missouri’s next Teacher of the Year has been educating for almost three decades at Potosi School District in eastern Missouri. Greg Kester is a high school social studies teacher. He will become Missouri’s 55th Teacher of the Year.

Kester said passion without compassion is directionless energy.

“I can present the greatest lesson in the history of mankind, but if I have a young person whose soul is in turmoilm or they’re living in a situation where their home life is a disaster, it doesn’t really matter how effective the instruction is. So I try to make sure that kids know the door is open,” Kester told Missourinet. “There are those out there who, for certain ideologies, they have expressed that, ‘Well teachers have an agenda.’ And I’m sorry, the only agenda we have is trying to improve young people’s lives. I’ve seen them buy the kid an umbrella who has to walk to school every day. I’ve seen kids who receive anonymous Christmas gifts from faculty members who have pulled money together.”

According to Kester, the greatest lesson he has learned from his students is how to be a better teacher.

“Being the Missouri Teacher of the Year doesn’t mean I’m the best teacher. I’m not the best teacher in this district,” said Kester. “I’m not the best teacher in the building and when we have kids teaching other kids, I learned I’m not the best teacher in my room, actually. But I wish people could see what human beings are doing as adults to try to improve the life of a child.”

He said the only agenda teachers have is improving the lives of young people.

“What you’re going to see are human beings that are invested in other human beings for minimum financial security, if any at all. And if that doesn’t make you realize just how great of a place this is, then you’re missing out,” said Kester. “What people are doing, not just to educate young minds, but to improve young lives, it is a very, very wonderful warm feeling.”

Kester said being a teacher is a calling.

“It’s really about what’s important to you and your life and how you want to judge success and being an enriched, wealthy human being. Is it going to be the numbers you see in a bank statement in regards to money that you may or may not spend before you pass away? Or is it going to be in cultivation of relationships and getting to know other people and impacting lives,” asked Kester.

Kester said he hopes to be a good spokesman for education in 2024.

He was the only Teacher of the Year finalist who is a social studies teacher. The selection process began with 34 Regional Teachers of the Year, and then narrowed down to 17 semifinalists and eventually seven finalists.

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