Year Awarded: 2019 Lincoln Public Schools Career Academy
Stephanie Howell did not immediately know she wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from high school, she spent two years in the military police with the U.S.Army followed by work as a corrections officer at the Nebraska Penitentiary and the Lancaster County Jail. While working these jobs, she earned her B.S. at UNL in Education and Human Sciences, and upon receiving her Secondary Education Certification, she found her calling as a social studies teacher at Lincoln Northeast High School instead of the law career she had anticipated.
In her first ten years teaching Social Studies, Stephanie increased the pass rate in American Government to one of the highest in the district. She has been an early adopter of technological tools, has focused on non-fiction writing with critical thinking skills, and has created a new peer mentoring group for students and a before-school study hall for struggling students.
For the last three years, Stephanie has been an embedded teacher in the LPS Career Academy with a focus on Psychology and Government/Politics. She has continued an emphasis on project based assessment and service learning and has organized numerous service learning opportunities. When Stephanie’s students wanted to develop a service learning project involving special education students, Stephanie and a colleague who taught special education plunged into the unknown. As a result of this collaboration, her colleague stated, “For the first time in my teaching career, I was able to see my students being accepted by the whole community at the school.” One of Stephanie’s students formed a true friendship with a non-communicative, wheel chair bound student and decided that he would embark on a special education career. This friendship, in the midst of a service learning project, changed the life of both students.
Stephanie witnessed the Challenger explosion as a grade-schooler sitting on the floor anticipating Christa McAuliffe’s historic space flight. She cried along with her classmates and teachers. As she thought back on her own career and on Christa Mcauliffe’s legacy, Stephany said that courage “means taking risks. It means thinking outside of the box and advocating for what is best for your students. Sometimes it means being willing to step outside of your comfort zone as an educator to make this happen.” Stephanie Howell’s teaching career has exemplified this type of courage. She is a wonderful example of the many courageous Nebraska teachers and she has been honored as the 33rd winner of the Nebraska Christa Mcauliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence in Education.