The Missourian’s educational programs have been honored by the Missouri National Education Association.

Dawn Kitchell and Chris Stuckenschneider of The Missourian were presented with the Missouri NEA-Horace Mann Award at MNEA’s Spring Representative Assembly April 21 at the Lake of the Ozarks.

The award is given to a “true friend of education in recognition of professional leadership and praiseworthy efforts to uphold the highest standards of excellence.”

Kitchell and Stuckenschneider were recognized for contributions to public education in the field of print journalism.

The Washington NEA chapter nominated the women for the award. Penny Heisel, a Washington School District teacher, wrote the nomination, in which she stated: “These two have been a driving force in many of our community programs which are extremely beneficial to the children and the schools of our area.”

Kitchell has directed the Missourian In Education program for 12 years. The program provides more than 3,000 classroom newspapers to 42 area schools each week, provides educational resources in the newspaper, offers teacher training and organizes community special events focused on literacy including the Summer Reading Program, Family Reading Night, Run to Read and The Bee, The Missourian’s regional spelling competition.

Other Honors

The Missourian In Education program has been honored by the Newspaper Association of America with its General Excellence Award, the National Newspaper Association with the Best of Newspaper In Education Award and the Missouri Press Association as Best Newspaper In Education Program Award.

In addition to her work for The Missourian and its sister newspaper, The Warren County Record, Kitchell directs educational programs for the Missouri Press Association and Foundation. In this statewide position, she helps all of Missouri’s newspapers in their educational outreach efforts and produces youth content used by hundreds of newspapers across the nation.

Kitchell is active in many education efforts across the state and locally. She is president of LIFT-Missouri, Missouri’s Literacy Resource Center, and serves on the Missouri Bar Advisory Committee for Civic Education.

Locally, she is president of the Y Literacy Council and of the St. Ignatius School Board. She also serves on the WINGS Educational Foundation Board of Directors.


“We are grateful to Penny, Melanie Trentmann and the Washington NEA chapter for nominating us for this award,” Kitchell said. “What a wonderful tribute, to be honored for doing something that we love, by teachers we so admire.”

Stuckenschneider has been employed at The Missourian for 15 years where she writes a weekly column, “Sights and Insights, and serves as book editor. For the past 10 years, Stuckenschneider has partnered with Kitchell on The Missourian’s youth literacy project Book Buzz, which they created as a way for young people to have access to good books in their community and as a forum for student reviews in The Missourian.

The voice of Newsbee, the Book Buzz mascot, Stuckenschneider works with publishers to bring new books and classics to young readers in the area, frequently arranging author visits for Family Reading Night, the Run to Read, and other community events including the upcoming Friends of the Library Children’s Garden Party.

In September, Book Buzz will celebrate its 10th anniversary, and the project will have distributed 10,000 quality, hardcover books to area schools, thanks to businesses, service groups and individuals who provide funds to purchase the Book Buzz Picks for schools in The Missourian’s readership area.

This passion for children’s literature spawned Stuckenschneider’s interest in writing picture books. “Twist of Fate, the Miracle Colt and His Friends,” her first book, recently placed third in the Show Me Readers Award presented by the Missouri Association of School Librarians. She is working on her second picture book, “Patriotic Pals, Tails of the Civil War,” to be published in 2013. Both books evolved from serial stories she created for the Missouri Press Foundation.


Stuckenschneider served nine years as a trustee at Washington Public Library and is a founding member of the library’s Friends of the Library group, serving as the organization’s first president. Chris received the Velma Jones Stroetker award from the library for her dedication to community literacy. She also received the Outstanding Alumni Award from East Central College in 2009.

The MNEA award is named for Horace Mann, the first Secretary of Education. He presided over the establishment of the first public normal school in the United States in 1839.

Mann said “Good books are to the young mind what the warming sun and the refreshing rain of spring are to the seeds which have lain dormant in the frosts of winter….”

“This quote encapsulates what I hope Book Buzz provides,” Stuckenschneider said. “One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is working with teachers, visiting classrooms, and meeting students who submit reviews.

“Dawn and I are so fortunate to be employed at a community newspaper that advocates for literacy, and offers readers this opportunity,” Stuckenschneider said.