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Brenda Mckenzie, 2020 Pesky Award for Inspirational Teaching recipient

Brenda Mckenzie
Brenda Mckenzie, one of four teachers recognized this year with the Pesky Award for Inspirational Teaching.

Boise State University’s College of Education and the Lee Pesky Learning Center will continue the annual tradition of honoring inspirational K-12 teachers at Boise State’s virtual winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 19. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Pesky Award for Inspirational Teaching.

Brenda Mckenzie, a kindergarten teacher from Valley View Elementary in Boise is one of the four recipients this year. Mckenzie was nominated by her student teacher and Boise State teacher education senior Natalie Swesey. Each recipient was surprised in their classroom by their principal and presented with a plaque. A video of the surprises will be played at Boise State’s virtual commencement ceremony December 19. Each teacher received $2,000 and their respective schools received $500.

Natalie Swesey is currently a student teacher in Brenda Mckenzie’s kindergarten classroom at Valley View Elementary and nominated Mckenzie after witnessing the outstanding support Mckenzie offers her kindergartners, especially during the Covid 19 pandemic.

“During the 1st month of online school she created ‘front yard kindergarten’ where we went to a student’s house each day and read to them, and did some type of educational game,” said Swesey. “We have 46 kindergartners and she made sure each of those students and parents’ needs were met during the first month of school when we were online.”

Swesey has also felt personally supported by Mckenzie while being mentored as a student teacher.

“I am dyslexic and during my midterm conversation with her, we discussed how hard it was for me to do things because of my dyslexia,” said Swesey. “She told me that she was going to do some reading on ways to help me be successful. I have never had another teacher work with me on my disability and not judge me for something that I struggle with.”

Alan and Wendy Pesky founded the Lee Pesky Learning Center in 1997 in honor of their son Lee, who passed away in 1995 at age 30 from a brain tumor. As a child, Lee had to learn skills to overcome processing dysgraphia, a problem with organizing letters, numbers and works on a line or page. The nonprofit center, headquartered in Boise, serves mainly children and some adults with learning disabilities, as well as those from economically challenged homes. The center also provides educational services for Idaho teachers.

Learn more about the Pesky Award and see previous recipients