Year Awarded: 2018 Scottsbluff High School English and Drama Teacher

Those familiar with both Detroit, Michigan and Scottsbluff, Nebraska might say that it takes courage for any teacher to move from one to the other.  Elena Garcia taught for seventeen years in the Detroit area,“an amazing experience,“ in her words.  But when a friend wrote her about Scottsbluff,  she “jumped at the chance” to learn about and teach in the kind of diversity represented by the Nebraska panhandle.  One of her new Nebraska students who shared her last name began calling her Dr. Garcia over and over in class.  While the student was  acknowledging the PhD that Elena had earned to improve her understanding of classroom teaching, the student admitted that he simply loved hearing his own name with Dr. In front of it.  Elena loved the connection she built with her new student.

But Elena Garcia’s educational courage goes beyond moving to an entirely new part of the country.  Elena teaches English and Drama at Scottsbluff high school. She does the hard work of making very personal connections each of her students.  When one of her students survived a suicide attempt, it rattled the entire drama class.  Her drama class wanted to drop their plans for a traditional school play and write and perform a play about teen suicide.  Although the school administration may have been wary, she stood behind the project and saw it through to a successful and meaningful completion for her students, for parents,  and for many in her community.   Dr. Garcia also incorporates theater into her English classes to good effect, when she has students act out dramatic passages in the books they read.  This has let to a love of reading and learning for many of her students, even those with reading difficulties.  

Dr. Elena Garcia is a wonderful representative of the many courageous teachers teaching in Nebraska schools, and is a worthy winner of the 2018 Nebraska Mcauliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence in Education.