In April and May, NELAC, the Nebraska English and Language Arts Council, “recognized, honored, and thanked ten legendary and outstanding English and Language Arts teachers” from across the state. The announcement was made by Clark Kolterman of NELAC. Kolterman said that the centenary anniversary of NCTE, the National Council of English, prompted the state affiliate, NELAC, to create a Hall of Fame that will add a name each year, thereby recognizing excellence in the teaching of English in Nebraska.
The ten teachers who became charter members of the Hall of Fame were chosen for their contributions as English teachers as well as their involvement in other organizations that promote literacy in grades K-12 and in postsecondary positions.
The ten teachers were honored at a ceremony in the Warner Chambers of the State Capitol building on May 4, 2012. The recognition was part of an annual event hosted by NELAC and the Nebraska Writing Project. At this event, NCTE Writing Achievement Awards were given to high school writers and to the editorial staffs of student literary magazines. The NeWP also honored 12 student poets who submitted poetry about their rural, urban, and suburban settings. Eight of the ten Hall of Fame teachers were present. Clark Kolterman noted the long contributions of each to the teaching profession and presented each with a framed certificate.
The ten teachers who were presented Hall of Fame certificates were (in alphabetical order): Sharon Bishop, Heartland Community Schools-Henderson/Bradshaw; Gerry Cox, Lincoln East High School; Dr. Mel Krutz, Hastings College; David Martin, Omaha Central High School; Dr. Charles Peek, University of Nebraska, Kearney; Judith Schafer, Wayne High School; Dick Schanou, Aurora High School; Dr. Susan Stein, Omaha Creighton Prep; Susan Vastine, Chadron High School; and Dr. Richard Zwick, Concordia University, Seward.
Several of these teachers have been involved with the Nebraska Writing Project. Dick Schanou was an early participant in the NeWP when Les Whipp was the director. Schanou credited Whipp with teaching him to become a poet and then a teacher of poetry. David Martin also fondly recalled the early days of NeWP when Les Whipp was at the helm. Mel Krutz and Gerry Cox were also earlier participants in NeWP; Gerry Cox worked with the late Carol MacDaniel. Sharon Bishop and Judy Schafer have worked with current director Dr. Robert Brooke since 1997 when both were chosen to serve on a three-year initiative with the National Writing Project, Rural Voices, Country Schools. Schafer also co-facilitated several rural writing institutes in Wayne and Grant and also served as an Associate Coordinator. Bishop served several terms as a Co-Director, co-facilitated numerous rural writing institutes and currently serves on the NeWP Advisory Board.
Dr. Robert Brooke, the Director of the Nebraska Writing Project commented: “I am extremely pleased that so many Nebraska Writing Project teachers were recognized by the Hall of Fame. These excellent teachers represent what NeWP stands for—teachers who are writers themselves, leaders in the community, and great teachers of writing.”
A NELAC Hall of Fame plaque, engraved with the names of these ten charter members, will hang in the Nebraska State Department of Education.