Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Cassie Benzel

Cassie Benzel

Cassie Benzel

special education, Burke High School

Years with OPS: 6 (all at Burke)

Bachelor of science and master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

One student said: “She’s helped us through our struggles learning and showed us different teaching styles to make us better students. She has helped us grow and be more mature, inside and outside of school.” Another student wrote: “In the classroom, when anyone is having a problem, she will sit with them and give her full attention until it is understood. She calls us a family, so that means we stick together on everything.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Dawn Buller-Kirke

Dawn Buller-Kirke

Dawn Buller-Kirke

vocal music, Buffett Magnet Middle School

Years with OPS: 27 (11 at Buffett)

Bachelor’s and master’s of music degrees from UNL

A colleague said: “Mrs. Buller-Kirke has a special ability to connect with her students through music. Her passion and excitement for music directly influences and energizes our students. To say that she gives it her all in the classroom every single day is an understatement. The development, growth and confidence displayed by our students at our music concerts are not by chance, but through intentional and daily hard work by Mrs. Buller-Kirke.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Raquel Caldwell

Raquel Caldwell

Raquel Caldwell

first grade, Dundee Elementary

Years with OPS: 19 (all at Dundee)

Bachelor of science from Nebraska Wesleyan, master of science from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

A colleague said: “She does a wonderful job building rapport with students, parents, staff and the community. She has an engaging personality and a genuine kind and caring attitude.” Another wrote: “The one constant in her teaching has been her care and concern for her students. She cares about them from an academic perspective, but she also cares about them personally. She is a constant example to me that schools need to be aware of the importance of serving more than just the academic needs of the child.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Annie Catania

Annie Catania

Annie Catania

second grade, Prairie Wind Elementary

Years with OPS: 32 (21 at Prairie Wind)

Bachelor of science and master of science degrees from UNO

A parent wrote: “She has encouraged her students to reach above and beyond in their imaginations, learning and in daily life.”

Another wrote: “She has a compassion about her job that shows in her work with these students and makes them want to learn. She makes school a fun place to be and in turn the kids want to learn. What more could a parent ask for than to have their child beg them to go to school because she wants to learn from Mrs. Catania?”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Cynthia Gamerl

Cynthia Gamerl

Cynthia Gamerl

early childhood special education, Skinner Magnet Center

Years with OPS: 6 (all at Skinner)

Bachelor of science from College of St. Mary

A colleague wrote: “More than anything is her dedication to doing what is best for each child she serves, regardless of the obstacles that may get in her way. I have seen her stand up for students when their basic needs are not being met to ensure that they are receiving what they need to thrive. Her humility, frankness and humor are infectious and enviable.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Sharon Hostler

Sharon Hostler

Sharon Hostler

math, Burke High School

Years with OPS: 31 (all at Burke)

Bachelor of science from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, master of arts from UNL

A student wrote: “Ms. Hostler is one teacher who is extremely dedicated to teaching and really has a passion for it. This is the first year in math that it all makes sense to me. She cares about her students and genuinely wants to see us succeed.”

Another wrote: “Ms. Hostler is by far the most outstanding math teacher I have ever had in my school career. She has an out-of-the-box personality, which actually makes me excited to come to her class.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Jennifer Magnuson-Stessman

Jennifer Magnuson-Stessman

Jennifer Magnuson-Stessman

guidance, Washington Elementary

Years with OPS: 20 (15 at Washington)

Bachelor of science from Creighton University, master of science from UNO

A colleague wrote: “Mrs. Stessman displays such keen empathy with students. I have never seen a child not respond or open up to her. She holds such strong professional values regarding trust and confidentiality, and it shows in the number of students who want to talk with her and confide in her. Her insightful questions about how they are feeling never fail to work, and I am sometimes awed by her uncanny ability to know when their anger is really fear or hurt.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Mary Malone

Mary Malone

Mary Malone

English as a Second Language, Bryan High School

Years with OPS: 12 (all at Bryan)

Bachelor of science from UNL, master of arts from Gonzaga University.

A student wrote: “Ms. Malone is a wonderful ESL teacher because she loves all of her students no matter their skin color or where they are from. ”

An admirer wrote: “Mary frequently works with students who have never set foot in a formal classroom. Many would be overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible task of preparing students in a few short years to not only speak the language, but be prepared to contribute in high school classrooms, college campuses and society as a whole. For Mary, this is a vocation.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-James Mayberger

James Mayberger

James Mayberger

math, McMillan Magnet Center

Years with OPS: 22 (all at McMillan)

Bachelor of science and master of science from UNO

A colleague wrote: “Everyone can recall that one teacher who stands out in their mind as the one who motivated them, cared for them in a genuine way, or sparked something they didn’t know they had. Mr. Mayberger is that teacher for many students.”

A student wrote: “Mr. Mayberger has been a fantastic inspiration to me. He kept me going and helped me exceed my expectations for all the possibilities that engineering and architecture could give me.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Therese McGee

Therese McGee

Therese McGee

third grade, Wilson Focus School

Years with OPS: 24 (7 at Wilson)

Bachelor of science and master of science from UNO

A colleague wrote: “She has a special knack for bringing out the best in each of her students. She gets to know her class and their families and shares in the joys and frustrations they bring to school every day. Her students love her and she loves them back.”

Another wrote: “Ms. McGee is an exemplary teacher. She exudes energy and genuine care for each student, focusing on their educational and emotional needs.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Sarah Monzu

Sarah Monzu

Sarah Monzu

multi-handicapped, JP Lord School

Years with OPS: 13 (8 at JP Lord)

Bachelor of science from Creighton, master of science from UNO

A colleague wrote: “Sarah is truly enthusiastic about teaching her students with multiple disabilities, and it shows each year as her children learn new skills and make great progress on their learning objectives.”

A parent wrote: “Most of her students are nonverbal, but Sarah is still able to communicate as she knows them so well. ... She is a very special person and JP Lord would not be the same without her.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Cathy Nelson

Cathy Nelson

Cathy Nelson

teacher leader, Blackburn High School

Years with OPS: 21 (10 at Blackburn)

Bachelor of arts from University of Northern Iowa, master of science from UNO.

A student wrote: “She is an amazing role model. She’s always bringing new opportunities into the building. She loves everything about her job and she lets it be known through her actions and her words. Mrs. Nelson always goes the extra mile to make sure students have what they need to succeed.”

A colleague wrote: “Cathy Nelson’s contributions to students and the community have inspired teachers struggling with disconnected students, (and) provided new opportunities and hope for students.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Diane Stauffer

Diane Stauffer

Diane Stauffer

fifth and sixth grades, Buffett Magnet Middle School

Years with OPS: 8 (all at Buffett)

Bachelor of science from McPherson College, master of arts from the University of Iowa.

A former student wrote: “Ms. Stauffer is one of the most loving people I know. She is patient with her students and she makes sure they understand. She doesn’t just tell them to figure it out; she quietly helps them. Ms. Stauffer is a teacher every student will remember as they grow up and live their lives.”

A parent wrote: “She makes every attempt to individualize the learning process and always makes sure my children feel exceptional about who they are and what they do.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Angela Tetschner

Angela Tetschner

Angela Tetschner

library media specialist, Hale Middle School

Years with OPS: 21 (4 at Hale)

Bachelor of science and master of arts from UNO

An admirer wrote: “Mrs. Tetschner has opened new worlds to students, helped students temporarily separate from home or school stresses, and affirmed their differences, all the while bringing the student body together through a common appreciation, and even love, of reading.”

A colleague wrote: “She is easily the most helpful, giving and creative person I have ever met. I am amazed each and every day by how tirelessly she works for both our students and fellow teachers.”

Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award WINNERS-Irene Urzendowski

Irene Urzendowski

Irene Urzendowski

Integrated Learning Program

Years with OPS: 18 (16 with Integrated Learning)

Bachelor of science and master of science from UNO

A colleague wrote: “She is the perfect role model. She knows how to motivate students to strive for excellence. ... She is a dynamic and powerful communicator who possesses the gift of being able to make complex subjects understandable.

Another wrote: “Because of Ms. U., hundreds of students have made a successful transition back into a general education school. While not every student is successful, Ms. U. has been able to remain encouraging to students who return.

Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.