This is a tough time to be an educator.
I’ve always had deep respect for teachers; mine throughout the years at Papio had a profound impact on my life. Ms. Blase, Mr. McCaw, Mrs. Gess… and the high school teachers who were also my mentors and now, friends: Mrs. Ruff, ‘Nien’, Ms. Kollars, and Mr. Johnston.
To be a teacher is to believe in someone, to make them feel like they are something special and that you want to take the time to help them do everything they want and more in this world.
My friend Matt, a phenomenal educator now at Creighton Prep, told me once, ‘anytime you get discouraged, just go to a school.’ Best. Advice. Ever. When I walk into the doors of any of Westside’s 13 schools, I see hope. I see joy in learning. I see happiness.
Perfect example: Mr. Carlson’s Kindergarten class at Rockbrook Elementary.
Every time I walk into Dustin’s classroom, he is on the floor or at a table with his students. They are engaged and laughing. On the day I stopped by last week, Mr. Carlson and his students were making robots – he is a leader in STEM and coding, making this ever-important skill FUN for kids as young as 5 and 6 years old. He is teaching them educational and life skills, things that become the building blocks for a lifetime of learning… but to these children, Mr. Carlson is their buddy and a guy they look forward to seeing and spending time with everyday. Click here to check out Mr. Carlson’s Kindergarten website, and click here to follow Mr. Carlson’s Kindergarten class on Twitter!
From his principal (another incredible educator) Garret Higginbotham: “Mr. Carlson is a teacher often remembered by his former students and visited years later as well. He keeps the caring and character that has made Kindergarten such a special place while infusing skills such as coding and robotics. Few Kindergarten students are concerned with their teacher’s professional credentials, though his include being an Apple Distinguished Educator and a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, but students have certainly benefited from his professional commitment. More importantly, Mr. Carlson does what makes our most memorable teachers so… well… memorable. They know their students, they care about them, and they make learning an adventure. The love of teaching shines through in a love of learning and in the commitment to see each and every child grow, learn, and succeed.”
A commitment to children. Making a difference in young people’s lives. Those are the same things that are pulling a young, future teacher to this wonderful world of Kindergarten education.
“To me, service is most important,” says Kiera Rhodes, Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2018. “Being able to go out and help others can also teach you many valuable lessons.”
Kiera, a 17-year old from North Platte, has wanted to positively influence lives since she was impacted as a little girl, a Little Sister in the Miss Nebraska Organization and mentored by Miss Douglas County Mindy Schreiber (click here to read more!). That desire to lead and teach was reinforced again last year, when Kiera herself was a titleholder in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.
“Last year I was Miss Harvest Moon Festival’s OT, and my ‘big sister’ was Lianna Prill,” said Kiera. “She has become a huge role model to me; she’s so selfless and genuine and she taught me so many things this past year.”
Kiera wants to pay it forward, hoping to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen this April. Already, she’s visiting children’s groups and elementary schools with a message: Turning Setbacks Into Comebacks.
“[I] focus on doing just that, turning the challenges we face into something positive,” said Kiera. “I make it known that there are always people to talk to about your challenges. I love going to classrooms. I want to teach Kindergarten and I think this is absolutely helping me. Through this organization I’ve learned how to talk to people in a way that all people can understand.”
Look at those smiles.. a clear measure of the impact one person can have on the world and the people in it.
“I think that if we really push that being yourself is ‘the thing’ to do, then more people would just be happy with who they are, which is how it should be!’ said Kiera.
The average life span of an American is 79 years. Think of everything we do in those eight decades. At just five years old, Kindergarten often becomes the foundation for it all.
“Kindergarten is a magical moment in the life of a child,” said Garret Higginbotham. “For many children, it is the first full day experience they have with school. Countless memories are made and nearly all of us can recall the name of our own Kindergarten teacher.”
Hundreds of children will remember Mr. Carlson. Dozens more educators are inspired by his work, hoping to follow in his footsteps.
Kiera Rhodes hopes to make a difference, too – as an educator, and possibly, as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KIERA?
For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.
The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.