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Northeast employees recognized by US Bank; others acknowledged

Northeast employees recognized by US Bank; others acknowledged

NORFOLK, Neb. – Four Northeast Community College faculty and staff members were recognized with awards from US Bank during the College’s spring semester In-Service recently.

The US Bank Great Performer Awards annually honor employees who have been nominated by their peers for their outstanding contributions to the College. The awards have been presented by the bank, or its predecessor institutions, since 1993.

This year’s honorees and their awards include: Heidi Merritt, nursing instructor (Full-time Faculty); Brock Soderberg, EMT and paramedic programs instructor (Part-time Faculty); Merri Schneider, director of Northeast’s extended campus in O’Neill (Professional Managerial); and Kevin Furstenau, network cabling & systems technician (Classified Staff).

In her nomination, Merritt has been described as an extraordinary professional, mentor, teacher and peer.

“The atmosphere of Heidi’s classroom is energetic, and she has special qualities that keep her students engaged and excited to learn. She demonstrates her outstanding qualities in her everyday actions. She is certainly a student advocate and is congenial and approachable. Heidi makes every effort to ensure that her students are successful and that they have every opportunity available to make them successful.”

The nomination also states that Merritt is always willing to adjust her schedule to make time to meet with students and provide additional assistance to students outside of the classroom.  She is never one to turn anyone away.

“Heidi drops everything to advise students no matter what project she is working on. We can certainly speak to this quality as a couple of us were also previous students of Heidi’s. We have been very fortunate to call her teacher and colleague.” The nomination continued, “Heidi has been a great mentor to new faculty, sharing her knowledge and expertise. She has been dedicated to Northeast for several years and has been a big part of how the nursing program has evolved.”

Soderberg has been teaching in both of the EMT and Paramedic programs over the past three-years and is described as an outstanding instructor who is well-liked by his students. In his nomination, Soderberg is called reliable, punctual and always comes prepared for class.

"Brock is very knowledgeable and comes to the program with over eight years of experience as a paramedic with the Norfolk Fire Division. He continues to practice full-time in his field. Brock puts substantial time into developing lessons and activities to strengthen the concepts he is teaching. The quality of his instruction is reflected in the fact his students have a very high pass rate (nearing 100%) with the National Registry EMT and Paramedic exams upon completion of his courses."

Students say Soderberg is "super knowledgeable" and he makes his classes "fun and interesting." When there are multiple sections for a course, his section typically fills up first. The nominator said Soderberg also goes out of his way to help build and improve both the EMS and Paramedic programs and became among those who first embraced the new “flipped classroom” learning style in both programs.

"Brock was responsible for writing new exams for the new flipped classroom curriculum. His creativity is amazing in how he presents concepts which encompass all the different learning styles,” the nominator said. “He has developed board games using such items as crushed Matchbox cars to reflect motor vehicle accidents while helping to reinforce concepts. He uses a variety of realistic scenarios to both encourage and challenge students to use critical thinking skills and make good decisions when dealing with life and death. Brock is a very strong instructor and a huge asset to our program.”

"There is definitely something about Merri," one of Schneider's 19 nominators said. Schneider, who has served as director of the O'Neill extended campus for 14-years wears multiple hats in her position.

"A director is a recruiter, advisor, financial aid support staff, scheduler, facility manager, community liaison, and technology support, to name a few. Merri always performs all these tasks with a smile." according to the nominator. "She illuminates a positive, can-do attitude that is contagious. Her quick wit and friendly demeanor make Merri a friend to all."

Schneider is described as kind and humble who doesn't seek attention or be recognized. She is well connected and respected across the region. Another nominator, a superintendent in an area school district, said Schneider works hard every day to make Northeast’s O'Neill extended campus the best it can be.

"Merri arranges and rearranges schedules to meet the needs of high school early entry students that she serves! She understands that for some of our first-generation college students, their first experience with Northeast can make or break their decision to pursue a degree. She holds hands when she needs to, not just for students, but sometimes for high school guidance counselors and administrators too! Overall, Merri is an outstanding human being who also happens to be an outstanding college administrator. We are fortunate to have her at the O'Neill campus."

Furstenau is described as the epitome of a great employee. His nominator said he comes to work everyday with a positive attitude and has the ability to make everyone smile or laugh on a daily basis. In his role, Furstenau single handedly wired most of the newer buildings on the Norfolk campus.

His nominator said, “This includes all the drops for the College’s new telephone system, the wiring for the new remote teaching set up in a former office area, the drops and boxes for a new print management installation, and any drops for new or moving office equipment; the list could go on and on.”

The nominator said they submitted Furstenau’s name for the recognition as many “great employees” are not always on the front line.

“Many are behind the scenes making everyone’s job at the College run seamlessly. Everything Kevin does takes time, effort, planning and skill prior to just ‘plugging in’ equipment when employees or students need it. … I truly cannot think of a more deserving employee that so profoundly impacts the daily work of employees, or the ease of access for students than Kevin. He does it with grace (and humor) and for the most part, by himself.”

In addition to the US Bank Awards, another 75 service year milestones were noted by employees for their commitment to the College.

Employees recognized were:


Debb Strate.


Ann Lund.


Loretta Brabec, Pam Schwartz, Vern Seier.


Sandy Hilliges, Connie Sixta.


Donna Andrew, Michael Lynch, Bowdie Otte, Diane Reikofski, Kathy Schwartzer, Kelly Wemhoff.


R.J. Bichlmeier, Betty Bollwitt, Gregg Dahlheim, Brandi Fuchs, Matt Johnson, Matt McCarthy, Stacie McCarville, Tom McKeon, Renee Peters, Shawn Sayers, Karen Spray, Bernie Thyen, Brad Vogt, Misty Wortman.


Mary Balaski, Colleen Barnes, Anthony Faust, Michela Keeler-Strom, Carissa Kollath, Linda Luikens, Julie Melnick, Kristi Rastede, Lisa Reifenrath, Brandi Rossman, Dawn Smith, Irina Weitzmann.


Brian Anderson, Cindy Bowers, Rachel Casselman, Taylor Christiansen, Ryan Cook, Mandy DeLancey, ViVi Freudenburg, Heather Gregory, Steve Hedell, Terri Heggemeyer, Monique Ketteler, Faye Kilday, Mary Nelson, Amanda Nipp, Melissa O'Connor, Jenny Schwede, Lindsay Spiegel, Andrea Suhr, Trisha Thelander, Curtis Wilken, Kenny Wurdinger.


Kristina Becker, James Brauer, Sonny Corkle, Paige Erickson, Sarah Fuerhoff, Erin Kucera, Michelle Kuehner, Crystal Hollmann, Vern Hood, Dan Radenz, Kendra Ranslem, Curtis Reese, Sarah Sellin, Kathy Timmerman, Iris Woodhead.

Another 19 employees who have retired over the past year-and-a-half were recognized for their contributions to the college. They include:

Sharlene Anson, custodian; Maureen Baker, director of Student Conduct; R.J. Bichlmeier, instructor, Electrical, Construction & Control; John Blaylock, executive vice president; Beverly Cleveland, custodian; Alan Darnall, instructor, Automotive Technology; Kathleen Donnelly, instructor, Psychology/Sociology; Verna Ferris, custodian; Mary Louise Foster, director of Library Services; Janet Heberer, associate director of Business Services; Cal Lamprecht, instructor, Automotive Technology; Roger Nelson, instructor, Utility Line; Kurt Pytleski, instructor, Horticulture/Golf Coach; Wendell Rhode, custodial supervisor; Nick Schapmann, maintenance; Ronnie Smith, maintenance technician in South Sioux City; Jean Stacken, custodian; Nancy Staub, executive assistant, Finance and Facilities.




US BANK AWARDS PHOTO IDs: (From left) Heidi Merritt, Brock Soderberg, Merri Schneider, and Kevin Furstenau.