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South Sioux City teacher awarded national honor

     The sky’s the limit when expectations are high, so that's where Jon Pickinpaugh keeps them. The eighth-grade science teacher at South Sioux City Middle School provides a highly efficient individualized interactive framework for his students to monitor their own goals and progress, with clear instruction and concrete daily learning targets. He tricks out his classes with all the bells and whistles to spur student engagement including bell ringers, hands-on lessons and multimedia. Pickinpaugh’s students consistently make solid academic gains thanks to his strategic and creative dedication to boosting STEM education.
     But it was Pickinpaugh who got a big boost recently at a surprise school assembly, where he was presented with a prestigious Milken Educator Award by Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Administrator Greg Gallagher. Pickinpaugh was named a 2017-18 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. He is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Nebraska this year, and is among the 44 honorees for 2017-18.
      The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching,” has been opening minds and shaping futures for 30 years.
      In his five years at South Sioux City, Pickinpaugh has helped prioritize learning standards and built proficiency scales to ramp up academic and behavioral improvements. He has also worked with at-risk students in the high-poverty school through his after-school role as football and wrestling coach, where he’s been known to spend quality time discussing life with students after practice.
      “Mr. Pickinpaugh is one of the rare educators that has been able to masterfully blend content knowledge with the art of teaching,” said Todd Strom, Superintendent of South Sioux City Community Schools. “He is able to teach science standards and also ignite the fire within students so they can continue inquiring on their own. My own child was a benefactor of his teaching style, ‘demanding yet not demeaning’ positively pushing each student to reach their potential.”
      Much of Pickinpaugh’s life has been in northeast Nebraska. A native of Wayne, he is nearing completion of his third degree from Wayne State College. He earned bachelor's degrees in business administration (2005) and education (2010) from WSC.
     Please join us in congratulating South Sioux City Community Schools and Jon Pickinpaugh on this well-earned honor!

Pender school earns national Blue Ribbon honor
     Pender Elementary School was one of 342 schools recently recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2017.
     “National Blue Ribbon Schools are active demonstrations of preparing every child for a bright future,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to the honorees. “You are visionaries, innovators and leaders. You have much to teach us: Some of you personalize student learning, others engage parents and communities in the work and life of your local schools and still others develop strong and forward-thinking leaders from among your teaching staff.”
     The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.
     This coveted award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.
     Now in its 35th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed recognition on more than 8,500 schools. On Nov. 6-7, the Secretary and the Department of Education will celebrate with these honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
      Pender was one of four schools in Nebraska to make the list for 2017. The others are Calvert Elementary in Auburn and Omaha schools Dundee Elementary School and Paddock Road Elementary School. Just 22 Nebraska schools have earned the honor since 1982.
     Pender was nominated by the Nebraska Department of Education for its exemplary scores on NeSA assessments during the 2015-16 school year in grades 3-6.
     Pender qualified as an “Exemplary High Performing School,” which are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
     Join us in congratulating all involved in this impressive achievement. Kudos!

South Sioux City educator named teacher of year
     Michelle Helt, a third grade teacher at Cardinal Elementary School in South Sioux City, was named Nebraska 2018 Teacher of the Year today during a surprise award presentation recently. Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt presented the award.
      Helt has spent her entire career at Cardinal Elementary. She began in 2002 as a resource and Title I reading teacher at both Cardinal Elementary and St. Michael’s Catholic School. She then served as an ESL and resource teacher for one year at Cardinal Elementary before becoming a third grade teacher, which she has taught since 2004. In addition to her classroom experience, Helt is also on the school improvement team, the South Sioux City Professional Development Committee, and is a mentor for practicum students from area colleges. Helt was also a founding member of the South Sioux City District Curriculum Council.
      Helt wrote in her Teacher of the Year application that teaching and learning are synonymous and she learns something new every day. She said she hopes her teaching style encourages her students to do the same. 
      “My commitment to the profession of teaching has never wavered. I have always known teaching to be my calling and passion in life,” Helt wrote. “I feel my greatest accomplishment in education is consistently creating a positive, encouraging learning environment that allows all students to be successful and active participants in their education. Two important factors in helping students reach their potential is helping students understand the ‘why’ behind every standard and student involvement.”
      Helt is a 15-year veteran teacher who earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Buena Vista University and a Master’s Degree from Wayne State College.
     Helt will participate in the National Teacher of the Year competition later this year.
     Please join us in congratulating Michelle Helt and Cardinal Elementary School. Way to go!

Using Data to Guide Action for School Improvement
     “Using Data to Guide Action for School Improvement” was a collaborative project between the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska ESU Coordinating Council and North Central Comprehensive Center. A Data Guidebook and Facilitators’ Guide were generated from this project and piloted by three northeast Nebraska schools — Niobrara, South Sioux City and Walthill.

 
 

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