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Vanessa Thomson (MO '22)


Chapel Hill Elementary School
Gladstone, MO

Subject(s) taught: General Elementary
Grade(s): 2

At the time of the Award, Vanessa Thomson was:

Chapel Hill Elementary School
Gladstone, MO

Subject(s) taught: General Elementary
Grade(s): 2

Biographical Information

Vanessa Thomson believes every child can learn and is an expert at differentiating her instruction to meet individual student needs. At Chapel Hill Elementary in Gladstone, Missouri, Thomson’s second graders make great strides, especially in writing. During a unit on writing odes, she works alongside her students, writing her own ode to better understand the process and work involved, and brings published poets into the class as mentors. Work from Thomson’s students is included in the curriculum and serves as a model for second graders across the district. Thomson works to meet students at their current level and propel them to the next, encouraging students to teach each other and to collaborate to build confidence in reluctant learners. Her classroom is rich with cultural representation, inclusive practices such as community circles and celebrations for every accomplishment, no matter the size. Last year, Thomson’s students showed significant growth in all content areas from fall to spring, with 70% ending the year reading on or above grade level and more than 90% mastering most math standards. Because Chapel Hill’s population of English language learners (ELLs) has grown in recent years, Thomson has focused on building a toolbox of language development strategies. Her work has paid off—in spring 2022, 89% of her ELLs demonstrated mastery on all priority standards, up from 25% at the beginning of the school year.

Thomson serves as facilitator for Chapel Hill’s leadership team, collaborating with administrators to set meeting agendas, leading discussions and ensuring follow-up on school improvement goals and action steps. As a member of the district’s strategic plan action team, Thomson collaborated with students, parents, teachers, administrators and business partners to develop recommendations for enhancing learning environments for all grades and redesigning professional collaboration. She mentors new and beginning teachers, modeling lessons, observing, providing feedback and leading professional development during evenings and summers. Thomson serves as a district demonstration teacher for writing, hosting teachers from across the district for lesson observations and sharing of best practices. As Chapel Hill prepared to reopen its building during the pandemic, Thomson led the team focusing on reentry, helping develop safe protocols for conferring with students, meeting in small groups, using classroom libraries and incorporating technology. She volunteered to teach a blended class with both in-person and virtual students, prioritizing keeping online students connected both academically and socially.

Thomson inspires students to embrace community service. After a unit on active citizenship, one child received local news coverage for a necktie drive he organized to support homeless people. The class performs random acts of kindness around the school each spring and has raised funds for a local animal shelter. Thomson leads the school’s popular “Pie a Teacher” event, where students raise money for United Way selling pies to throw in teachers’ faces. One reminder of the deep bonds Thomson forges: the stack of invitations she receives each year to former students’ high school graduations.

Thomson earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2008 from William Jewell College and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2013 from Baker University.

Press release: Gladstone Teacher Makes History as First North Kansas City Schools Educator to Receive Milken Educator Award

Related Connections

Article: Spotlight: Vanessa Thomson (MO '22)

Educator Quote:

"In first grade I was a shy, reserved kid who maybe..." (read more)

Vanessa Thomson In The News

Second-Grade Teacher, Master’s Alumna Wins National Teaching Award
Baker University  |  Feb 15, 2023  |  Baldwin City, KS

WATCH --> FOX 4 Report on Milken Award
WDAF-TV  |  FOX  |  Jan 26, 2023  |  Kansas City, MO

WATCH --> KSHB Report on Milken Award
KSHB-TV  |  NBC  |  Jan 26, 2023  |  Kansas City, MO

A North Kansas City Teacher is the Winner of a National Education Award
KMA-AM/FM  |  Jan 23, 2023  |  Shenandoah, IA

WATCH --> Gladstone Teacher Makes History by Receiving Prestigious Award
KCTV-TV  |  CBS  |  Jan 19, 2023  |  Fairway, KS

WATCH --> Gladstone Teacher Surprised with $25,000 Award
KMBC-TV  |  ABC  |  Jan 19, 2023  |  Kansas City, MO

Additional Information


2013 M.A., Education, Baker University

2008 B.S., Elementary Education, William Jewell College