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Fall Newsletter: Carrying Miss Judy's Legacy Forward

Sarah Lewis describes her mother, Judy Besecker Lewis, as a shining light. 

“My mom was a role model, friend, caregiver, and teacher for me and countless others,” said Sarah. “She loved her work and was instrumental in building awareness of the benefits of using hands-on learning stations and integrating science into her teaching lessons.” 

Judy Besecker Lewis earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and was a master’s-level teacher and administrator in Early Childhood Education with Lincoln Public Schools (LPS). She taught elementary school in Columbus, Ohio, started a private kindergarten in Cumberland, Maryland, and then spent 32 years with LPS, mainly with delightful five-year-olds in kindergarten. She later worked in LPS administration, then “Miss Judy” spent nine years with the Springdale Public Library in Arkansas, telling stories to three and four-year-olds using lots of puppets, music, and costumes to help tell the stories. 

Judy was a leader. And though she retired after a 35-year career, she continued her mission in early childhood education. 

“She was an artist at celebrating people and making people feel loved and special,” said Sarah. And this was part of what inspired Sarah to create the Judy Besecker Lewis Scholarship. “My mom was passionate about ensuring children had the foundation they needed for a fulfilling life. She saw the benefits of early childhood education and its ability to affect a student’s life.” 

Having watched Judy create opportunities for children to learn and enjoy learning, Sarah felt pulled to carry this same energy and legacy. She established Judy’s scholarship to help inspire future educators to have a similar impact on children, their families, and their communities. 

“She coached many teachers in bringing out the best in their students and always spoke professionally to her students, helping them know they were capable and worthy of respect,” shared Sarah. “My mom impacted many lives in positive ways, and it’s through this scholarship that I would like to carry this positivity forward for children and their families.” 

Madison Miles, a Lincoln East High School graduate, was the first student to receive the Judy Besecker Lewis Scholarship as she began her journey in early childhood education. “I was honored to receive this scholarship, especially after talking to Sarah and learning about Judy and her career,” said Madison. Her grandpa and uncle inspired Madison to pursue education as a career, and after graduation, she hopes to teach kindergarten or first grade. “Those grades are the building block for a child’s education.” 

When asked where Sarah sees the future of this scholarship, she said, “I hope that through this scholarship, future educators will be motivated by their gifts and talents for teaching as they walk students through a love of learning. I hope my mom can inspire them as they follow their passion and be the best educators for their students and families.” 

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