Thank You Teacher

Recognition Ceremony
2020–2021

Thank You Teacher winners announced for 2021

Five educators were selected among more than 500 nominees in the annual Lincoln Public Schools Thank You Teacher contest, which asks current and former students throughout the community to write about how a favorite teacher impacted their lives. The winning educators and students were honored this year at a ceremony with limited attendees held Tuesday at LPS District Office. 

The event was held in conjunction with Nebraska Teacher Recognition Day, which also was Tuesday.

This year’s winners in the five categories were:

Preschool-Grade 2

Ashley Livers, Beattie Elementary School, nominated by Jessica Mitchell-McCollough and her daughter, Violet. In her nomination letter, Mitchell-McCollough and her daughter said Livers has gone above and beyond to help her daughter, who has been a remote learner this school year.

“Mrs. Livers has truly been an example of resiliency and community building during a challenging year, always open and honest and willing to be flexible, always supportive and cheerful. What could have been a very hard year has instead turned into a year of opportunities for new kinds of growth and celebrations of new learning. Mrs. Livers deserves to be recognized for her outstanding work in the classroom and Zooming into our homes. She is an incredible educator that has made a world of difference, and I will forever be grateful to her for everything she does everyday for our kids and our community.”

Grades 3-5

Daisy Shada, Hill Elementary School, nominated by student Michael Donner and his mother, Jacqui Donner. They said this about Shada in their nomination letter:

“At first, I had a lot of trouble at school and I don’t know why I just couldn’t do what I was supposed to, but Mrs. Shada always made me feel like it was ok to make a mistake and it didn’t make me bad. I wanted to be a good student and she helped me learn what to do when I am mad or frustrated so I can do the right thing and make better choices. She makes me feel like she is proud of me and that makes me feel good because sometimes, before this year, I didn’t feel like I could do a good job in school. But now I love going to school and learning new things. I think Mrs. Shada deserves an award because she is the best teacher I had in my life!”

Middle School

Kenneth Pyle, Dawes Middle School, nominated by student Bella Brice. She said this about the impact he has had on her school experience:

“He has made science so much more fun and really tries his hardest everyday to make sure students are getting the education they need in order to succeed. He has helped me in so many ways. My mom passed away in mid-June of 2020 from an unexpected heart attack. It was hard coming back to school. On the first day when I walked into his classroom, I knew it was going to be good.”

High School

Lacey Kinning, Lincoln High School, nominated by former student Sona Buchholz, who is now studying to be a teacher herself. She credits her former teacher for her success in high school and now Nebraska Wesleyan University:

“I struggled with science courses throughout school and I absolutely hated them because I always felt weak and incapable due to my Cerebral Palsy. However, Mrs. Kinning changed my view forever. She made me see that I was strong, smart and truly capable of anything I set my mind to.”

Retired

June Reta, Pyrtle Elementary School, nominated by former student and current Pyrtle teacher Sara Ewerth. Ewerth taught alongside Reta at Pyrtle before her retirement.

“June had, and still has, a remarkable memory. She can remember students that she has taught from the beginning of her career! I could barely remember my students’ names from year to year. Even to this day, June can remember her former students, their parents, siblings and where they are now. June has made a difference in my life and in so, so many other lives.”

Thank You Teacher is sponsored by Lincoln Public Schools and KFOR/KFRX radio.

Photos from the 2021 Thank You Teacher Celebration

Program

Welcome

Jill St. James
AlphamediaUSA

Speakers

Steve Joel
Superintendent
Lincoln Public Schools

Kathy Danek
President
Lincoln Board of Education

Awards Presentation

Steve Joel and Jill St. James

Letters and Comments

Students and Teachers

Closing Remarks

Jill St. James

This event is sponsored by:
KFOR, KFRX, Lincoln Public Schools, Lincoln Education Association and the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools

Five educators were selected among 500 written nominations in the annual Thank You Teacher contest, which asks students throughout the community to write about how a favorite teacher impacted their lives. The event is sponsored by Lincoln Public Schools and KFOR/KFRX radio.

Our 2021 Honorees

  • Kindergarten–2nd grade
  • 3–5th grade
  • Middle School
  • High School
  • Retired

Ashley Livers

School
Elementary

Nominated By
Jessica Mitchell-McCollough, parent and daughter Violet

I would like to nominate Ashley Livers, 2nd grade teacher at Beattie Elementary.

My daughter, Violet, is a remote learner in Mrs. Livers class during this year that has presented so many challenges for all of us. During this past year Mrs. Livers has worked tirelessly to build a strong relationship with my daughter, even though they have never actually been together in person. This started in the Summer when during her week to plan and put together her classroom, she took the time to meet one on one with Violet to answer all of her questions, they quickly became buddies and gabbed for almost an hour.

Beyond building that strong bond, Mrs. Livers has also worked to provide Violet multiple opportunities throughout this year to guide her own learning through additional inquiry. She has supported V as she did additional research projects, reading, introduction to new languages, and then Mrs. Livers brings what Violet has learned into the classroom so that all of the students can expand and learn together. Though she is teaching students in person, and online she seamlessly engages and is present with all of her students, always responsive to questions and the needs of all of her students.

Finally, Mrs. Livers has been an incredible partner with parents to provide support for our kids as they learn. She has made time often to coach me through the new language of math so that I can help with questions from home, always takes the time to be responsive to emails, and provides multiple opportunities for parents to be “present” in their child’s learning, to communicate, and learn alongside the second grade class.

Mrs. Livers has truly been an example of resiliency and community building during a challenging year, always open and honest and willing to be flexible, always supportive and cheerful. What could have been a very hard year, has instead turned into a year of opportunities for new kinds of growth and celebrations of new learning. Mrs. Livers deserves to be recognized for her outstanding work in the classroom and zooming into our homes. She is an incredible educator that has made a world of difference, and I will forever be grateful to her for everything she does everyday for our kids and our community.

Daisy Shada

School
Hill Elementary

Nominated By
Michael Donner, Hill 3rd grade student and Jacqui Donner, parent

Mrs. Shada has made school fun for me again. I didn’t used to like school because it was hard and I didn’t feel like I could do it. I understand math more this year, than with any other teacher because she makes it easier to understand. She explains it in a better way that just makes me understand and it makes me feel good that I can do it.

Mrs. Shada gives us lots of fun activities to do and it doesn’t even feel like hard work! I am doing much better in reading this year because she is so patient and doesn’t make me feel bad that I have trouble reading and listening. She helped me a lot with fluency which makes me sound better when I read and I went from the lowest spelling words list to the Beyond list which makes me feel good.

At first, I had a lot of trouble at school and I don’t know why I just couldn’t do what I was supposed to, but Mrs. Shada always made me feel like it was ok to make a mistake and it didn’t make me bad. I wanted to be a good student and she helped me learn what to do when I am mad or frustrated so I can do the right thing and make better choices. She makes me feel like she is proud of me and that makes me feel good because sometimes, before this year, I didn’t feel like I could do a good job in school. But now I love going to school and learning new things. I think Mrs. Shada deserves an award because she is the best teacher I had in my life!

Parents’ Note:
We have seen the most improvement in Michael this year. He is night and day different from the beginning of the school year, when we received weekly phone calls or more, about incidents that happened at school where Michael would get extremely upset and/or disruptive. Mrs. Shada took time from her day to communicate with us and put Michael in appropriate programs to help him succeed. We appreciate her efforts so much! His MAP scores improved drastically this year and Mrs. Shada even personally contacted us about his improvement the moment she saw his scores; increased by over 30 points. He’s just filled with so much more confidence now and he can’t say enough good things about Mrs. Shada.

Kenneth Pyle

School
Dawes Middle School

Nominated By
Bella Brice, Dawes 7th grade student

Mr. Pyle is an awesome Science teacher. It’s his first year at Dawes and is trying to make his classes the best they can be. As a student being in his class he makes things more fun and exciting. I want to go to zoo school and learn more about overall science. He got together with some Nebraska Game and Parks people and is doing this program called Trout in the Classroom. He got about 200 trout eggs and a big aquarium to put in the classroom. He also got a bearded dragon, 3 tarantulas, a highway kingsnake, a rainbow boa, 2 poison dart frogs, and now has 2 cocoons (ootheca) that are hatching with baby praying mantises from his terracotta pot.

He has made science so much more fun and really tries his hardest everyday to make sure students are getting the education they need in order to succeed. He has helped me in so many ways. My mom passed away in mid June of 2020 from an unexpected heart attack. It was hard coming back to school. On the first day when I walked into his classroom, I knew it was going to be good. For the past time he has had all his animals and reptiles/creatures in the classroom, I have been helping him take care of them along with a few other people. He has impacted so many peoples lives with his knowledge and kindness.

I would love to have him nominated because he is so deserving.

Lacey Kinning

School
Lincoln High School

Nominated By
Sona Buchholz, former student

For seven years I have tried to win Lacey Kinning this award, and she has yet to win so this year I am writing again to say that I would have the honor of nominating Lacey Kinning.

I would not be the person or future educator that I am without Lacey Kinning. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Kinning during my freshman year of high school at Lincoln High High School, and the relationship we built I feel will last a lifetime. Mr. Larson, our principal, told me I needed to find one teacher that was going to be “my teacher” one that would help me be successful, I did that. I would not be the person I am today without the dedication and compassion that Mrs. Kinning provided me every day since day one.

I struggled with science courses throughout school and I absolutely hated them because I always felt weak and incapable due to my Cerebral Palsy. However, Mrs. Kinning changed my view forever. She made me see that I was strong, smart, and truly capable of anything I set my mind to.

As we fast forward a few years she was right, I got accepted to Nebraska Wesleyan University on scholarships due to Ms. Kinning’s gracious effort and time spent on me for months of recommendations. Just recently though, I was trying to get into the Teacher Education Program at Nebraska Wesleyan, and she coached me on how to pass my exams, and how to impress the faculty on my interview.

One of the questions was who was a teacher in the past that helped shape you today, that question was tremendously easy as it rolled off my tongue so fast, Mrs. Kinning was my answer. I said my first goal is to build the same relationships with my students that Mrs. Kinning did for me because “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt.

As I was answering these questions all I could think of was what would Mrs. Kinning say. I remembered that once a Link always a Link and I wanted to make Mrs. Kinning proud. I contacted her the night I found out I had been accepted into the program. I will never forget what she said, she said: “Sona Bear, I am so proud of you I knew you’d be a fabulous teacher if you believed in yourself, I was just here to guide you, you did all the work.” Lacey’s dedication and commitment are what make her the greatest teacher of all, and when I become a teacher I hope to be half as amazing as she is. Thank you to all educators for what you do for students on a daily basis, but thank you Mrs. Kinning for always believing in me, supporting my career choice, and not letting me give up on teaching and myself when it got hard, because you didn’t give up on me I will not let future students give up on themselves and I will not give up on you.

Lacey is the most phenomenal teacher. I tell my classmates that have practicum at Lincoln High she is a teacher worth meeting. Thank you a million times over again Mrs. Kinning for helping me find my purpose and passion, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.

Thank you,
Sona Buchholz

June Reta

School
Former teacher,
Pyrtle Elementary School

Nominated By
Sara Ewerth former student and Pyrtle teacher

June Reta was my 6th grade teacher at Pyrtle Elementary and I also had the absolute privilege and joy to teach alongside with her for a few years at Pyrtle. I have been retired from LPS for five years, and one of the things I like to do is to get together with my childhood friends from Pyrtle.

This is what we all remember about our favorite teacher, Mrs. Reta: The year was 1968 and we were in Mrs. Reta’s 6th grade class. We spent much time in class talking about current events, especially the Presidential elections. It was Nixon/Agnew versus Humphrey/ Muskie. We all had vivid memories of walking around the playground discussing the election and the candidates with Mrs. Reta. I can see the image in my head, just like it happened yesterday, talking about which candidate was better! Because of this and Mrs. Reta talking to us like adults, it is something we have never forgotten! She also loved sports, and would encourage us all to play games with each other during recess. To practice Spelling, we would be in teams and have a World Series to find a Champion. Every day, probably after lunch, she would read to us from many books. One book we all especially loved was, “The Hobbit,” which started me on my love for fantasy and reading Tolkien. Mrs. Reta was also an excellent artist and every Friday, was Art day. She helped the LPS District create the art curriculum to bring to the classroom. She would let all of us explore our creative side and I will always remember that she made me feel good about my “attempts” at my art work.

When I started teaching at Pyrtle over 40 years ago, it was SO hard for me to call her June, instead of Mrs. Reta. What I learned from June teaching in the room next to her, was to find a way to make that connection with each student. June had such a special way of making each student feel special and cared for. She became a mentor to me in that area that I hopefully carried out throughout my career. Another thing that I loved about having a room next to June was running to her and asking for help in Art. She could always save the day for me! Another memory that is not so fun for June is the time we all went to Camp Kitaki for our 6th grade Fun Day. I had a broken toe and was on crutches. June, being the good sport that she was, decided to try horseback riding for her last year. Well……she fell off and broke her ankle. We both ended up on crutches the last weeks of school!

Over 25 years ago, former and present 5th & 6th grade teachers at Pyrtle started a birthday club—about 10 of us. We still get together for each other’s birthdays. Last year, we missed everyone’s birthday except June’s. It was special for all of us to meet and honor June for her 90th birthday. June had, and still has, a remarkable memory. She can remember students that she has taught from the beginning of her career! I could barely remember my students’ names from year to year. Even to this day, June can remember her former students, their parents, siblings, and where they are now. June has made a difference in my life and in so, so many other lives.

I would love to honor my former teacher, my former colleague, but most of all, my dear friend- June Reta