LINCOLN – Lindsie Thiems, a preschool teacher at Kearney Public Schools, is the recipient of the 2020 Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence in Education.
The College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln presents the annual award to a Nebraska teacher who exemplifies the character of Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster.
Thiems was recognized Friday during Administrators’ Days, a virtual conference for all Nebraska school administrators.
A deeply passionate and focused educator, Thiems relies on inspirational teaching methods to ensure each student receives intentional learning techniques. In her role at Kearney Public Schools, she works with some of the most-needy families in the school district, many of whom experience trauma every day in their home.
“Lindsie shows the courage to not give up on the most-troubled families. She is committed to value them through listening and locating helpful resources,” said one nominator. “She shows the courage to make a difference for these children of trauma.”
During her career, Thiems has always worked with students whose families have high-risk factors, so she understands they need more care. She has committed herself to additional trainings that focus on child abuse and neglect and trauma, and integrates her new learnings into a better approach with the children and families she works with.
“I want my students to know that no matter what their life is like outside of the doors of our school that Mrs. Lindsie is always a kind, caring, safe and trusting person they have in their life, even if there is no one else,” Thiems said. “I truly hope that every teacher has this goal because there is not a student out there who does not benefit from that.”
Thiems always puts the needs of her students first, even when she’s balancing a great deal at home. Early in her teaching career, she made the decision to foster two of her students, along with their younger sibling. She navigated the foster care system and advocated for the children through the legal system and counseling before adopting the youth long-term. She managed to create a stable and supportive family life for these children, while obtaining her teaching certificate, volunteering in the community and facing personal health issues following a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
“Her bravery and love for her students is definitely one that spreads throughout the workplace,” said another nominator. “Even in times that are hard with work and home life, she pushes through, always giving her very best for her students.”
Thiems earned an associate degree from Central Community College, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She is a first-generation college student from Nebraska.