NORTH PLATTE, Neb. – Never underestimate the importance of a smile from a teacher – at any time in a student's career.
Lisa Guenther, who is an instructor and adviser for Northeast Community College’s Early Childhood Education program, knows how disarming a smile can be.
Leah Barrett, Northeast president, pointed that out recently when she introduced Guenther as the recipient of the NCCA-Northeast Community College Faculty Award. The honor was bestowed at the Nebraska Community College Association (NCCA) annual conference in North Platte.
Guenther, a native of Laurel, began her distinguished teaching career in the Norfolk Public Schools, teaching first-graders at the former Northern Hills School.
“Whether it is a nervous first-grader missing his mother or a freshman college student questioning if she has what it takes to be an early childhood educator, Lisa’s smile puts everyone at ease,” Barrett said. “Her smile is natural because it combines her two greatest loves – teaching and being around other people.”
Barrett said Guenther is the type of instructor who brings out the best in future teachers.
“That’s because she cares – cares enough to put others’ needs ahead of her own. She is sought out by many students as an adviser because the concern she has for students is apparent in everything she does. While a college student might be struggling with grades, balancing work, studies and social life, Lisa’s reassuring smile lets students know that it is going to be OK. She has traveled the same pathway, and her words of wisdom provide the confidence needed for future teachers to excel in the classroom. And her actions speak volumes on how to treat others,” Barrett said.
Charlene Widener, Northeast vice president of educational services, said Guenther always has the best interest of students in mind. She has been able to adjust her teaching styles, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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, she piloted the hyflex delivery method for Northeast Community College during the COVID-19 pandemic so students who learn better in person could come to her classroom,” Widener said. “She has continued offering her courses as hyflex so students can decide to attend class in person, virtually, completely online, or in any combination of these methods. This has allowed students who are already working in the industry to complete a credential and provide high quality childcare simultaneously.”
During Guenther’s tenure, Northeast sought and gained approval to offer coursework that satisfies the educational requirements for the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification that is internationally recognized in the childcare industry.
She attends conferences and workshops locally and nationally to stay current in all aspects of the childcare industry. Guenther is a regular attendee at training and meetings conducted by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, an organization focused on improving quality childcare through research, practice, policy, and outreach.
“Lisa incorporates information she gains from these trainings, as well as the Early Learning Guidelines from the Nebraska Department of Education, into all courses she teaches, and she encourages students to continually read and learn about new developments in the industry,” Widener said.
Among her qualifications, Guenther is certified to teach Safe With You trainings, which include Safe Sleep for Infants, Never Shake a Baby, and Power to Protect: Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. Students who take the Infant and Toddler Development course complete this training series, which is required for all workers in licensed childcare facilities in Nebraska.
The Wayne State College and University of South Dakota graduate is working to improve the early childhood education industry, including low pay and a shortage of qualified workers.
She is part of the Growing Nebraska Together initiative being led by U.S. Rep. Mike Flood of Norfolk and supported by the Aksarben Foundation. She also regularly attends meetings with the Nebraska Department of Education that focuses on the childcare industry and is highly involved in the Power of Preschool organization in Norfolk.
She has met with representatives from high schools seeking dual credit opportunities for their students and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute that conducts research, publishes findings for the industry, and provides professional development.
Lisa Guenther (Northeast Community College)