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 Northeast 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 Lisa Guenther, early childhood education instructor (Full-time Faculty); Robert Stout, welding instructor at Northeast in O’Neill (Part-time Faculty); Ed Lewis, truck driving trainer (Professional Managerial); and Erika Rupprecht, student activities coordinator (Classified Staff).
One nominator said they have never met a kinder or more caring person than Lisa Guenther. This can be demonstrated by the compassion she exhibits in her work with her early childhood education students.
“As a club advisor, Lisa is always working to provide her students with opportunities to connect and engage in the community and grow as early childhood professionals,” the nominator said. “When COVID sent everyone into remote virtual learning, she continued to engage with her students and the student body. Her students love her and learn so much patience, understanding and development tools from her as an instructor and club advisor.”
Since Guenther began at Northeast as a full-time instructor in 2019, she has become involved in several groups, such as the Northeast Nebraska Growing Together initiative, that are working to resolve issues such as low pay and a lack of qualified employees in the early childhood arena. She regularly attends meetings with the Nebraska Department of Education that focus on the childcare industry and is also highly involved in the Power of Preschool organization in Norfolk. Guenther meets with representatives from high schools seeking dual credit opportunities for their students as well as the Buffett Early Childhood Institute that conducts research, publishes findings for the industry, and provides professional development.
Another nominator said Guenther is one of a kind. They said her background in education taught her that students learn in different ways, so she structures her classes to meet all learning styles.
“Knowing that virtual and online learning was difficult for some students, Lisa piloted the hyflex delivery method during the COVID-19 pandemic so students who learn better in person could come to her classroom.”
In addition to serving students, Guenther regularly volunteers in sharing her knowledge and experience with other instructors by leading or co-leading sessions for faculty or by meeting with them one-on-one.
During Guenther’s tenure, Northeast Community College sought and gained approval to offer Child Development Associate certifications that are internationally recognized in the childcare industry. In addition, she developed a service project through her Early Childhood Education Association that created library kits that have been delivered to libraries throughout Northeast’s 20-county service area so they can be checked out by childcare providers, parents, and others. She applied for and received a grant through Dollar General stores to purchase books and other supplies to include in the kits, which have proven to be very popular.
Anyone who has taken a welding class at Northeast’s extended campus in O’Neill has described Stout as enthusiastic, extremely knowledgeable about his trade, easygoing, and can relate to everyone. As a Northeast alumnus, he often speaks very highly about the College’s welding program.
Stout began teaching part-time for Northeast while he was working a full-time job, which required him to travel out of the area most of the week throughout the year. After spending his work week away from home, he didn’t hesitate to agree to teach for Northeast on Fridays, and even offers a short-term evening class on Friday nights each spring.
“Robert truly enjoys sharing his knowledge of welding and inspires many high school students by opening their eyes to career opportunities available in the industry,” according to his nomination. “He takes great pleasure in hearing feedback from his students and keeps in touch with high school students after they have moved on to college. He has taught students who were not planning to continue their education beyond high school, but after they took his Early College class, they were excited about going on to continue their education and begin a career in welding.”
Another nominator indicated Stout gauges his student audience and tailors his teaching style accordingly.
“Robert’s industry experience, along with his easy-going demeanor appeals to students learning styles. You will find students both respect him as a teacher and seek him out as a subject matter expert and confidant.”
When he is not in the classroom, Stout is recruiting young individuals into the profession by reaching out to schools and the community. He coordinates industry tours for students at locations they may not be aware of to open their minds and perspectives to the many opportunities a career in welding can yield.
The nominator said, “Robert has a passion for what he teaches. He desires to see the best in his students and desires to see all students succeed. He is well-versed in all things welding-related and can readily translate that industry knowledge and experience into relatable and understandable curriculum.”
“Ed Lewis is highly deserving of recognition through the US Bank Great Performer Award for his unceasing contributions of time, energy, and industry knowledge in advancing the interests of students, Northeast Community College, and the truck driving industry itself,” his nomination reads. “His knowledge of the industry along with his ability to identify a problem and quickly find a solution is why so many students and companies in our region are successful in the truck driving industry.”
Lewis devotes considerable time and energy to improving Northeast’s truck driving program that had led to equal access opportunities across the College’s 20-county region. An example is his dedication to equity for all through his work to connect the truck driving program to English as a Second Language and Adult Education students to ensure opportunities for many who, on their own, would not be successful in the trucking industry.
Furthermore, Lewis has been heavily incorporating new regulations into the curriculum which call for more training hours. He has helped to identify and design a second training facility at Northeast’s South Sioux City extended campus and expand transportation courses at Northeast’s extended campus in West Point as part of the Pathways 2 Tomorrow (P2T) initiative. The latter has led to requests from Norfolk Senior High School for a similar dual credit opportunity.
“Ed has long exemplified a level of commitment to Northeast that can serve as a model for others, be it pulling the demonstration trailer to career fairs to maximizing college resources by hauling equipment and COVID supplies from across the nation to fit the College’s needs above and beyond his daily duties,” his nominator said. “Ed’s influential leadership has helped advance Northeast’s mission and priorities in very specific ways. Dedication and leadership based on the foundation of personal experience and commitment helps to define Ed Lewis as a professional making him very deserving of this award.”
“Erika Rupprecht doesn’t know how to fail or how to not give 100% to everything she does,” her nominator said. “She has taken her role in student activities and accelerated it above and beyond what was expected.”
Rupprecht is said to always be looking for new ways to reach students to adapt social media and Student Activities’ outreach to them and continue to connect with them in creative ways. She is known to build one-on-one relationships with students and has made a significant impact in many of their lives. She is trusted and others around her know she will get the job done and do it exceptionally well.
Rupprecht constantly works to improve student activity events to be more efficient, more exciting, and more fun. On top of the many ways she has improved student activities, her dream to create a dance team when she was a student at Northeast came to fruition this past year.
The nominator said, “She took on the leadership to create a dance team as a club and organization at the College. The work requires fundraising activities and countless hours, which include 6:30 a.m. dance rehearsals after late night student activity events. She greets every day with high energy, enthusiasm and creative problem solving. Our students and our campus are so fortunate to have her work ethic and passion.”
Kathy Svik, vice president at US Bank-Norfolk, was joined by Leah Barrett, college president, in presenting the awards.
In addition to the US Bank Awards, another 63 service year milestones were noted by employees for their commitment to the College.
Employees recognized were:
Michael Cooper, David Heidt, Matthew Svehla.
Anthony Hoffman, Michael Lechner, Pam Saalfeld.
William Barnes, Roger Carnell, Lynn Daberkow, Jason Elznic, Tony Milenkovich.
Roberto Arreguin, Ward Baldwin, Debra Bates, Rich Erickson, Kelly Griffith, Michael Holcomb, Brandon McLean, Tiffany Pinkelman, Merri Schneider.
Stacy Afrank, Emily Duncan, Kathy Goodwater, Angie Jackson, Amy Kaiser, John Knapp, Sarah Luebe, Judy Potter, Brittnee Terrill, Amanda Thomason, Denise Turner.
Jon Barnes, Leon Boecker, Curtis Brandt, Katie Brummels, Beth Carlson, Marcus Clapp, Stefanie Dvorak, Susan Green, Matthew Hampl, Cynthia Hanson, Ashley Hoffman, Janet Johnson, Katie Johnson, Corey Knull, Duane Leicy, Maria Loera, Michael McCarthy, Chet McGowan, Yolanda Mendez, Sheila Meyer, Cheryl Musil, Eric Roskeland, Christopher Rutten, Matthew Sazama, Nathan Simpson, Cleve Stolpe, Debbie Taylor, Carole Tharnish, Lori Trowbridge, Christopher Walker, Kristine Weinberger.
US BANK AWARDS PHOTO IDs: (From left) Northeast employees Ed Lewis, Robert Stout, Erika Rupprecht, Lisa Guenther, and Kathy Svik of US Bank.