Thank You Teacher

Recognition Ceremony
2021–2022

Emotional event honors Thank You Teacher winners

Five educators were selected from more than 500 written nominations to be honored as part of the annual Lincoln Public Schools Thank You Teacher celebration, which asks both current and former students throughout the community to write about how a favorite teacher impacted their lives. It’s held in conjunction with Nebraska Teacher Appreciation Day, which was Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the winning educators and their nominating students were formally recognized during a breakfast reception at the Governor’s Mansion. On hand for this special event were family, friends, colleagues, LPS administrators, members of the Lincoln Board of Education and representatives from the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools.

Jill St. James from co-sponsor Alpha Media, KFOR and KFRX emceed the event. LPS Superintendent Steve Joel and Lincoln Board of Education President Connie Duncan addressed those in attendance, both emphasizing the vital role that teachers play in the lives of students.

“Congratulations to our honorees this morning. You represent the best of the best in Lincoln and Nebraska,” Joel said. “You are the embodiment of honor, integrity and passion that our educators bring to the classroom each and every day. Indeed, teachers provide so much to our students, and it is even more evident during a pandemic. You provide inspiration, motivation, and ultimately, dependability.”

“The Thank You Teacher event has always been one of my favorites,” Duncan told the crowd. “I always leave here with a tear in my eye but a smile on my face…I want to thank the teachers here and those back at their schools for their dedication over the last few years.”

Students read their nominating letters aloud, followed by remarks from the winning educators. As usual with this event, there were tears and sniffles from most of the honorees and many in the audience.

Here are this year’s winners, as well as portions of comments from those who nominated them

PreK–second grade

Melissa Christensen, first-grade teacher, Kooser Elementary School
Nominated by Abby Roth, now a Schoo seventh-grade student

Said Roth: “Mrs. Christensen really opened my eyes about how kids can really make a difference in our community. Every time I see her outside of school she will aways stop and take time to talk to me. She has really made a difference in my life and I will always remember her and she is someone that should get appreciated greatly. I hope that she never stops teaching and never stops showing kids how much of a difference they can make in our community and in our schools. Thank you, Mrs. Christensen, for changing my life.”

Third–fifth grade

Angie Stahl, special education teacher, Holmes Elementary School
Nominated by Rose Lorenz, fifth-grade student and Grandma Donna Woudenberg

Said Lorenz and her grandma: “I have Spina Bifida. Walking is a big challenge for me. I wear leg braces and use forearm crutches in the classroom, a walker for short distances, or my wheelchair for longer distances. I also have learning challenges … Mrs. Stahl is an amazing teacher and an amazing person. She is kind, compassionate, patient and loving. She has always been there for me and for my family. I know that no matter what goes on during the day, I can always count on Mrs. Stahl to help me and guide me in the right direction. Mrs. Stahl not only teaches me in her classroom, but she also teaches me and helps me understand what is right and good.”

Middle school

Sarah Roehl, counselor, Dawes Middle School
Nominated by Zoe Ingram, eighth-grade student at Dawes

Said Ingram: “She is so special to me and I couldn't have made it through some of the things I did without her. I have no idea where I will be in the future but I will always thank her for getting me through the worst times of my life. There are so many times I remember that I would be having a horrible day or I had a hard morning or night before and she would for just a couple minutes or seconds make me forget that I'm having a hard time. There were times I would just go sit in her room and completely break down or I would rant but there were other times I would just talk and she would listen and other times we would just laugh.”

High school

Brent Noser, music teacher, Lincoln High School
Nominated by Lincoln High School student Zeph Siebler and 43 others

Said Siebler: “Mr. Noser not only gives kids who are having troubles a place to belong, he looks at each of us, asks us what we want to do, what we need to do to do that, and does his best to get us that. In addition, he is good at identifying what we need even if we don't see it: a place to eat lunch, music to express what we can't express in words, and a tribe to belong to. When I am a teacher, I want to be the kind of teacher Mr. Noser is. By offering the world of music and a community of peers to each student, especially those at the margins, Mr. Noser genuinely enhances and saves lives. We are better humans because of his work.”

Retired

Sue Hedrick, retired LPS teacher
Nominated by Hope DaCosta-Schiltz, second-grade teacher at Rousseau Elementary School

Said DaCosta-Schiltz: “My name is Hope DaCosta-Schiltz and I am in my 12th year of teaching second grade in LPS. A product of LPS, I attended Pershing, Mickle and Northeast High School. It fills me with a tremendous sense of pride and gratitude to be giving back to the community that gave so much to me … A quote that really captures the two years I spent with Mrs. Hedrick (She was my first-grade teacher and fifth-grade teacher) comes from Carl Buechner: ‘They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.’ Every day was filled with fun in Mrs. Hedrick’s class. While I am certain she used highly effective, research-based strategies and the activities had 100% of students engaged, most importantly she made me feel safe, loved and so incredibly special.”

The Thank You Teacher event is sponsored by Lincoln Public Schools and KFOR/KFRX radio. Honorees received a gift bag courtesy of KFOR/KFRX, Lincoln Education Association and the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools

Photos from the 2022 Thank You Teacher Celebration

Program

Welcome

Jill St. James
AlphamediaUSA

Speakers

Steve Joel
Superintendent
Lincoln Public Schools

Matt Blomstedt
Commissioner of Education
Nebraska Department of Education

Leirion Gaylor Baird
Mayor
City of Lincoln

Lanny Boswell
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.

Melissa Christensen,

School
Kooser Elementary

Nominated By
Abby Roth, now a Schoo seventh-grade student

Mrs. Christensen has been my favorite teacher ever since I met her. She was an amazing teacher and cared a lot for her students. She was the teacher that would make students want to be there and want to learn. She was super funny and nice. She is one of my favorite people in my life and someone that I aspire to be. She has left a great impact on my life.

The first day I met her she was standing at the door with a great big smile on her face greeting everybody, and I knew that was going to be a great year, and it was. She would always read us pages out of a chapter book and would always take the effort to make games for us and make sure we were okay. In fourth grade I joined a club in Kooser that Mrs. Christensen ran and it changed my life. The club was about how we as students could make a difference in our school and in our community. We did many amazing things like decorating bags for a program called meals on wheels that would give people bags of food. She would always make the coolest bags and make sure we knew how grateful the people getting these bags were.

She would always sign us up for volunteering at the food bank, and when I went, I saw how amazing the community of Lincoln was. We would take monthly trips to the nursing homes and play games and do fun activities with the residents there.

Mrs. Christensen really opened my eyes about how kids can really make a difference in our community. Every time I see her outside of school she will always stop and take time to talk to me. She has really made a difference in my life and I will always remember her and she is someone that should get appreciated greatly. I hope that she never stops teaching and never stops showing kids how much of a difference they can make in our community and in our schools. Thank you, Mrs. Christensen, for changing my life.

Angie Stahl

School
Holmes Elementary

Nominated By
Rose Lorenz, fifth-grade student and Grandma Donna Woudenberg

NOTE from Rose’s Grandma Donna Woudenberg: Rose has Spina Bifida and learning disabilities and is not able to write this letter herself. I am writing on her behalf.

My name is Rose. I am 11 years old, and I am in the 5th grade at Holmes Elementary School.

I have Spina Bifida. Walking is a big challenge for me. I wear leg braces and use forearm crutches in the classroom, a walker for short distances, or my wheelchair for longer distances. I also have learning challenges. I have had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) since I began preschool classes in LPS. My plan includes daily classroom time with Mrs. Angie Stahl, my Special Education Teacher. I have been VERY lucky to have Mrs. Stahl as my teacher every year since I began school at Holmes!

Mrs. Stahl is an amazing teacher and an amazing person. She is kind, compassionate, patient, and loving. She has always been there for me and for my family. I know that no matter what goes on during the day, I can always count on Mrs. Stahl to help me and guide me in the right direction.
Mrs. Stahl not only teaches me in her classroom, but she also teaches me and helps me understand what is right and good. I don’t know where I (or my family) would be today without Mrs. Stahl in my life! She has been a MAJOR influence in my life and in shaping the person I am and will be.

I love Mrs. Stahl and I will miss her desperately (and so will my mom and grandma) next year when I leave Holmes Elementary for Middle School. I will never forget her. She will always be in my heart!

Sarah Roehl

School
Dawes Middle School

Nominated By
Zoe Ingram, eighth-grade student at Dawes

Hi, I’m an 8th grader at Dawes Middle School. My name is Zoe. Mrs. Roehl has been my school counselor for 3 years now. Throughout my time period at any school when I think of the person that has touched my life most, I think of her.

When I was in 6th grade, I was a really troubled kid. I went to only like 5 – maybe 4 – classes out of 7 and I got suspended multiple times. Throughout that time no one could help me, but then COVID struck. When 7th grade started, Mrs. Roehl was the only one that could get me to go to class. I got a little better through 7th grade, but I still wasn’t the best. I had over 100 tardies before that school year ended. But she still never gave up on me.

She has been my #1 supporter through everything I have been through. No matter what she always had a smile on her face even if she was having a super bad day. She never looks at kids differently no matter what they told her and she is always positive. She does whatever she can to make your life better and she is a ride or die. She keeps everyone safe. She has touched my life in more ways than one.
She is so special to me and I couldn’t have made it through some of the things I did without her. I have no idea where I will be in the future, but I will always thank her for getting me through the worst times of my life. There are so many times I remember that I would be having a horrible day, or I had a hard morning, or night before. And she would, for just a couple minutes or seconds, make me forget that I’m having a hard time. There were times I would just go sit in her room and completely break down or I would rant, but there were other times I would just talk and she would listen. Other times we would just laugh. Sometimes life would just be hard for me in ways I couldn’t explain and she always listened. She always cared and she never let me down. If she said she would do something she always kept her word and always did it.

Now I’m in 8th grade. I’m doing so much better now and honestly it’s all thanks to her. I have had all A’s and B’s all year and every teacher in the school has something positive to say about me and how much I have changed and how far I have come. I am on the honor roll for Dawes and have got to go places because of how good I am doing. I still talk to Mrs. Roehl every day because without her I wouldn’t be here. I honestly most likely would have gotten kicked out of Dawes. So, I believe that she deserves this award. She truly is amazing.

Brett Noser

School
Lincoln High School

Nominated By
Lincoln High School student Zeph Siebler and 43 others

Some people argue that music isn’t important. But music students find a tribe, they learn to belong, and they learn to be responsible. These are essential life skills. Mr. Brett Noser, the band/music teacher at Lincoln High, makes sure those who are struggling are involved, that they find their tribe, and that we all work together to make everyone’s world a little better through music. At Lincoln High we have a very diverse student population and sometimes there is not a lot of support or means within families to support music for their students (financial barriers for instruments, time barriers for practicing and concerts). Mr. Noser makes sure everyone who wants an instrument gets an instrument. And everyone who wants to try something new has the guidance and support to do so. He is there in the evenings and on the weekends to help students. He is enthusiastic and supportive.

When I was a first year and second year student at Lincoln High, I didn’t have any friends. The lunch room intimidated me and I felt like a loser eating by myself. I didn’t think anyone noticed, but Mr. Noser did. One day Mr. Noser invited me to eat lunch in the band room. That was it. He just said, “Hey, Zeph.
If you want, you can eat lunch in the band room.” He wanted me to feel like I had a place to be who I was. He wanted me to have a place to eat. In the band room we often didn’t talk much. He let me do whatever I needed or wanted during lunch: play the piano or eat or talk or read. He saw I was struggling and found a place for me to be who I was.

I am a musician and because of that I have worked with so many music teachers over the course of my K-12 education and I can say, without a doubt, Mr. Noser is the most amazing music teacher around; but even beyond that, is is a phenomenal educator and a nurturing soul to those who may be struggling to find a place. He is not only passionate about music, but he is passionate about his students and what each one of them needs or wants to achieve. When I started at Lincoln High, I wanted to try out new instruments. Mr. Noser was not only encouraging, he went out of his way to help me. Other music teachers are concerned with what the band NEEDS; Mr. Noser is concerned with what his STUDENTS need. In addition, I wanted to explore composing music. Although there was no course or venue for this, Mr. Noser spent extra time and energy to help me discover what has now become my chief musical passion. He allowed me to compose short pieces and then would have the band or jazz group play them. Can you imagine how good that made me feel? How much that made my heart sing? Other people were playing my music! I cannot believe I have been so lucky to have such a teacher in my life.

But Mr. Noser has not just taken this individual approach with me. I see him do it all day long. He goes out of his way to make sure his students grow in the ways and areas they want or maybe can’t even imagine to ask for. It boggles my mind how much energy he must have to attend to that level of individual needs with each of his students.

Mr. Noser is not just there for band students. He also is the teacher advisor for the Dungeons and Dragons after school club. You may think this is a silly club. What life skills does it foster? But DnD Club creates a space of belonging for those who may not have other places to belong; Mr. Noser makes sure we learn leadership skills and community building and communication skills in DnD club. I know this takes extra time for him, especially since he is already at school in the evenings and weekends because of band commitments. The DnD club is made up of a bunch of nerdy kids who find that getting together and playing coordinated games allows us a group of like-minded peers that have problems fitting in other places. We aren’t athletic, so we can’t do sports group; many of us are introverts, so we can’t do debate; we may not even be the best academic performers. But Mr. Noser helps us learn to collaborate, to be leaders, to be creative story-tellers, to build community. He laughs with us and delights in the worlds we create. It is another place where those who don’t always feel they belong to find a spot because of Mr. Noser.

Mr. Noser not only gives kids who are having troubles a place to belong, he looks at each of us, asks us what we want to do, what do we need to do that, and does his best to get us that. In addition, he is good at identifying what we need even if we don’t see it: a place to eat lunch, music to express what we can’t express in words, and a tribe to belong. When I am a teacher, I want to be the kind of teacher Mr. Noser is. By offering the world of music and a community of peers to each student, especially those at the margins, Mr. Noser genuinely enhances and saves lives. We are better humans because of his work.

Sue Hedrick

School
Former teacher,
Pershing Elementary School

Nominated By
Hope DaCosta-Schiltz, second-grade teacher at Rousseau Elementary School

My name is Hope DaCosta-Schiltz and I am in my 12th year of teaching 2nd grade in LPS. A product of LPS, I attended Pershing, Mickle and Northeast High School. It fills me with a tremendous sense of pride and gratitude to be giving back to the community who gave so much to me. One community member in particular, Mrs. Sue Hedrick.

A quote that really captures the two years I spent with Mrs. Hedrick (She was my 1st grade teacher AND 5th grade teacher.) comes from Carl Buechner. “They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.” Every day was filled with fun in Mrs. Hedrick’s class. While I am certain she used highly effective research-based strategies, and the activities had 100% of students engaged, most importantly she made me feel safe, loved and so incredibly special.

To know Mrs. Hedrick, is to love Mrs. Hedrick. I’m thankful to have had her in a pre-COVID world because that smile of hers could light up your soul if feeling the slightest bit down.
Her hugs felt like home, and that laugh–oh so infectious, and we heard it often. The climate and culture she cultivated was one of a kind. She described our class being a family, and I felt it the core of my being.

When the world came to what felt like a screeching halt back in March of 2020 my heart ached for my students. Students who came to school for a safe place, a hot meal, those steadfast relationships with friends and adults, and of course to learn. Seeing their sweet faces on Zoom once a week was simply not enough, and the next school year was filled with many unknowns. How would we return to in person learning in the midst of a pandemic?

In August of 2020 we were settling into learning all about how we would be safely welcoming students back into our buildings. It included a lot of sanitizer, disinfectant, physical distance and masks, as we all know. In addition to that, we added hybrid learning into the mix and taught students both in person and on Zoom simultaneously.

Trying to wrap my brain around all the changes, I knew I had to think about what was most important. Throughout my work as a teacher I have always reflected on what I Iearned from being in Mrs. Hedrick’s class. This year I needed to make it an even higher priority to implement those practices, as I would soon have a classroom of 23 students who needed to lean on me during this time of great uncertainty.

My mantra became, “Lead with love”. As a 1st grader my father passed away. While dealing with the grief his death brought, I was also struggling with simply feeling different than my peers. Going to school and seeing Mrs. Hedrick everyday was incredibly healing. She provided me with consistency, routine, endless love, and encouragement.

I made it my mission to show up each day for my students, both in person and remote and infuse each day with consistency, routine, endless love and encouragement just like that of my most impactful teacher, Mrs. Sue Hedrick.