Teacher of the Year Kameran Dostal turns to UNK master’s program to enhance her skills

UNK graduate Kameran Dostal is an art teacher at Emerson and Meadowlark elementary schools in Kearney. She was named the 2023 Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Nebraska Art Teachers Association. (Photos by Erika Pritchard, UNK Communications)
UNK graduate Kameran Dostal is an art teacher at Emerson and Meadowlark elementary schools in Kearney. She was named the 2023 Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Nebraska Art Teachers Association. (Photos by Erika Pritchard, UNK Communications)

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Kameran Dostal keeps a note next to her desk, a reminder of why she became an art teacher.

“I’m here to help you explore the joy of creative expression,” it reads.

Dostal, who teaches at Emerson and Meadowlark elementary schools in Kearney, approaches art education with an open mind. Instead of requiring students to follow a lesson step by step, she encourages them to express themselves and be “creative problem-solvers.”

“In public education, there are not as many opportunities for children to make their own choices,” she said. “It’s very black and white. This is the question, and this is the correct answer. Art is a beautiful place where sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. It leaves room for kids to form their own opinions and make a lot of their own decisions.”

A self-described “naughty child,” Dostal was the chatty, energetic student during elementary school. Sometimes, that caused issues in the classroom.

Diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Dostal didn’t receive glowing reviews during parent-teacher conferences until she reached the seventh grade. That’s when she started taking classes with former Fullerton Public Schools art teacher Marta Roeder, who appreciated her ability to connect with other students and “bridge gaps” in the classroom.

Roeder encouraged Dostal to start viewing her personality as a “superpower,” instead of a problem.

“She was kind of like my first teacher role model, someone who was rooting for me,” Dostal said. “That created this path for me where I know I can be the loud and crazy person, but I can use it in a positive way.”

Dostal graduated from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in December 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in K-12 art education and worked as an assistant educator in 4-H youth development before joining Kearney Public Schools in 2021.

“Art is important because it’s an opportunity for students to kind of see outside themselves and explore new cultures and new worlds,” she said. “Places they’ve never been or experiences they’ve never had, they can see through art. We kind of teach them to see the world in different ways.”

Dostal’s impact on students and contributions to the profession were recognized last fall, when she was named the 2023 Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Nebraska Art Teachers Association.


Always looking to expand her knowledge and skill set, Dostal is currently enrolled in the art education master’s program through UNK Online. The program aligns with her interests, allowing her to improve her classroom instruction while gaining a valuable professional credential.

“As an art educator, there’s so much content for you to learn,” she said. “The master’s program gives me an opportunity to be involved in research and explore the world of art education in a way that kind of pushes me out of my comfort zone.

“As a teacher, you can do the same stuff year after year. But if you do that, and you never evolve your teaching practice as your students change, then they’ll get bored and so will you. The master’s program really pushes me to take more risks, and I’m really seeing it pay off in the classroom.”

Dostal looked at several graduate programs across the state before choosing UNK because it offered “the most bang for your buck and the most content specific to being in a classroom and being an art educator.”

UNK is consistently ranked among the top schools in the country for people pursuing an online master’s degree in areas such as teaching, instructional design and educational administration.

U.S. News & World Report ranks UNK at No. 63 nationally on its latest “Best Online Master’s in Education Programs” list, released earlier this month. Only Creighton University (No. 27) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (No. 58) rank higher among Nebraska colleges and universities.

More than 1,700 online bachelor’s and master’s programs were assessed as part of this year’s rankings, with 300-plus public and private institutions making the list for online graduate programs in education.

In addition to the overall ranking, UNK is one of just 35 schools to earn a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Online Master’s in Education Programs for Veterans” list. Ranked 20th in the country, UNK is the only Nebraska school to receive this recognition.

For Dostal, the UNK program offers several advantages.

She appreciates the flexibility of online learning, allowing her to complete coursework at her own pace, as well as the high-quality faculty teaching these classes.

“The people teaching my courses have been K-12 educators themselves, so they structure the courses in a way that works best for professionals currently working in the field,” she said.

Even though she’s not on campus, Dostal is still able to develop relationships with faculty and classmates. They share ideas for lessons and projects through online discussion boards, and she’s part of a scholarship program for early career teachers that includes regular meetings via Zoom.

“It’s nice to connect with people who are experiencing similar circumstances in education,” Dostal said.

Like most K-12 educators, Dostal will receive a pay increase when she completes her master’s degree, but she’s not looking for a promotion. She’s more than happy in her current role.

“I don’t have a goal to be an administrator,” she said. “I just want to teach art with my kids forever, because I love it.”