There’s a story Laura Kilpatrick likes to tell, one that summarizes and makes clear the mission of elementary teachers – and teachers as a whole.

There’s a story Laura Kilpatrick likes to tell, one that summarizes and makes clear the mission of elementary teachers – and teachers as a whole.

There’s the basement, you see, and that’s the foundation; then there’s middle school, which is the first floor of the house. Above is the second floor, and that’s high school. Sheltering all of that is the roof, or college.

“And the sky is the limit.”

Kilpatrick, a music teacher at Bryant and Procter elementary schools in Independence, related that story, that analogy, shortly after she won the 2011-12 Independence School District Teacher of the Year award on Thursday.

“In all the years teaching I’d never heard that before,” she said, adding that it was her husband who told it to her.

Her husband was the first person to whom she gave credit on Thursday, telling other teachers of the year that he passed over job promotions twice in order for her to remain in the school district.

“It’s phenomenal what the city feels about this district,” she said. “I communicated in my interview that if I had another opportunity to teach in another school district, I wouldn’t. I love Independence. I think our district gets it.”

Surely her students do. A teacher for 15 years, she has taught in six elementary schools throughout the district, beginning at Benton. In that time she has been awarded teacher of the year at her school twice, and now this year – teacher of the year at Bryant Elementary School and district teacher of the year.

Her nominating administrator, Jon Pye, referred to her as challenging and not afraid to tell staff and administration where the improvements are needed most. As a music teacher, Kilpatrick sees her role as encompassing all subjects.

“I’m not a music teacher so much as I’m a catalyst for other subjects,” she said following the breakfast.

In one example, Kilpatrick uses keyboards to teach children how to tell time, and she steps beyond music terminology and defines and explains the words themselves in a language arts context. And math – she teaches the fundamentals because, as she said, math is very much like music. She even started a math club.

In addition to teaching, Kilpatrick has been a PTA board member and editor of the school yearbook. For the future, she said she wants to continue to improve and build on her skills, and that may mean a possible investigation into politics.

But for the sake of Thursday, Kilpatrick was a teacher, one of several the district gathered to celebrate.

Superintendent Jim Hinson put it best.

“You’re the heroes in the eyes of all our children.”