UNL News Releases 1/21/99

Contact: Phyllis Fogerty
Teachers College
(402) 472-0889


Lincoln (Neb.) - Jan. 21, 1999 - A teacher who said her philosophy of teaching is to "throw out lifelines" to students is the winner of the 13th Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence in Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Teachers College.

Kathy Stockham, who has taught English, journalism and speech in the Valley middle and high schools since 1976, won the award not only because of her work in her classrooms, but also for her efforts in encouraging the arts in the school and the community and in trying to ensure that freedom of the press extends to school newspapers.

"To teach is to throw out lifelines - my metaphor for the skills, knowledge and nurturing each student needs for success," Stockham said.

"The 'throwing the lifeline metaphor' implies a simple behavior, but teaching is a complex mixture of science and art, of knowledge and skill. I must manage student behavior, organize the physical space, communicate clearly and accurately, use questions and discussion techniques, engage students in learning, provide feedback to students and demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness. I believe that learning must be steeped in fun and yet be serious business."

Stockham said her commitment to making the arts part of the core curriculum began when a student at a speech contest asked if the activity was created merely as something to keep non-athletes busy. She organized the Valley Arts and Humanities Committee and tirelessly pursued funding through the school and outside sources. That led to seven artists-in-residence working with her students annually; selection of Valley Elementary School as one of six Arts Partner Schools in Nebraska and one of 36 in the nation through the Annenberg and Getty foundations; initiation of an arts festival in Valley; and creation of a summer theatre workshop for young people in the community.

She has sponsored the high school newspaper, the Terrier Times, for 23 years. The paper has won the Class C state championship four times and won the Cornhusker Award from the Nebraska High School Press Association three times. She is president of that organization, which also awarded her a Distinguished Adviser Award in 1995. She has drafted legislation, the "Freedom of Expression Bill," that has twice been introduced in the Nebraska Legislature that would clearly define what can be censored in a student newspaper and what the role of the publication adviser is in the process. "I believe educators should not be in the business of censoring expression beyond narrow and clearly defined parameters," she said. "With proper instruction and advisement, students can make responsible decisions."

Stockham will be honored Jan. 24 in Lincoln with a $1,000 stipend and a specially designed plaque. Three other teachers will be honored with Special Recognition awards, including Robert Kratina, English teacher at Bellevue West High School; Gene Martin, mathematics teacher at Beatrice High School; and Maria Weddel, special education teacher at Sunrise Middle School in Kearney.

The McAuliffe Prize was created to honor the first teacher- astronaut, Christa McAuliffe of Concord, N.H. McAuliffe was killed in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

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