Lindsie Thiems, Kearney Public Schools Bright Futures teacher, has been named the winner of the Christa McAuliffe education award by the University of Nebraska College of Education & Human Sciences. The award recognizes “courageous” educators who are excellent teachers that demonstrate courage by example. The award is named for Christa McAuliffe, the teacher/astronaut who lost her life in the Challenger space shuttle accident in January 1986.
Thiems established a strong preschool center-based program for our most needy families in the district. This program addresses families experiencing trauma every day in their homes - abuse, incarceration, lack of life necessities and support systems, and limited parenting skills – families that require extreme empathy, support, and resiliency from their teacher.
“That is Lindsie’s talent,” wrote Carol Renner, former KPS Associate Superintendent, in the nomination. “It was remarkable how this young teacher came into the system and knew immediately how to support the families and nurture the toddlers’ growth. Parents immediately saw Lindsie as the person that could improve their lives and keep their children happy and safe. On any day in Lindsie’s class, you can see her analyzing each child’s emotional status. Her eyes speak the words to children - I know who you are, your situation, and I am here for you. Lindsie is a magnet for children. They do not need to cry for her attention. She watches each child and knows when a ‘pick up’ and cuddling are needed....Lindsie professionally and caringly works with parents that live in constant trauma. Not every teacher can or would work with that level of challenge. She shows the courage to make a difference for these children of trauma.”
There is another story to Lindsie Thiems that illustrates her courageous character. In her early career, she worked at a Headstart setting serving struggling families. Thiem would not allow any child to endure abuse or neglect, nor be left behind, and became a foster parent for three energetic boys for whom she advocated. As a single, young woman, she took them in and cared for them as her own. Over time, she worked with the courts and adopted the boys. Thiems recently married a man who also loves the boys. He adopted them, and they are a great family. They recently had a baby.
Thiems does numerous volunteer hours with several groups that focus on children: teaches Sunday school, volunteers for a summer vacation bible school, leads a support group for single moms, packs meals to send to third world countries through the ‘feed my starving children program,’ provides financial assistance to Columbian children through Compassion International, and volunteers for Step Out and Serve, a local Storehouse to help advocate for the needy and help them gain independence for the long term.
“I have the privilege of working with Mrs. Thiems,” stated Megan Schmidt, principal at Bright Futures Preschool. “She is a wonderful educator that strives each day to meet the individual needs of the students as well as build strong relationships with the families. Mrs. Thiems creates a warm and caring environment for her students, where they all feel cared for and valued. Mrs. Thiems is so deserving of this award. We are lucky to have her part of our Bright Futures team.”
Thiems was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last year and now leads a support group for others with the disease.
Thiems will receive her award, along with a $1,000 stipend, during the Administrator Days conference this fall.