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Educator Award History

2021 Recipients

Laura Aten

Jill Oestmann Reading Educator Award

About the Award: This award goes to a secondary-level teacher who works with struggling readers.

Amount Awarded: $500

Nominated By: Ruth Kupfer, former co-worker

Nomination: Laura’s skill at making each student feel valued and capable makes her stand out among her peers. She quickly forms positive relationships with students and listens carefully to learn about their interests and goals. She uses these understandings to gather relevant classroom library resources. Her message to all is that the power of literacy will broaden life and career choices and increase success in adulthood.  

Laura’s love of reading is infectious in her classroom, and she creates practices that enable students to build essential skills so they can develop their own enjoyment of reading. She closely monitors assessments and instructional needs and adjusts curriculum accordingly in order to facilitate growth. In one case this led her to propose a new course and author its curriculum after she identified a pattern of difficulty students were having in transitioning from a basic-level reading class to one that fulfilled a graduation requirement.

Laura has the notable ability to encourage all students to meet high standards with much success, including students in the ELL program and those students receiving SPED support by encouraging them to meet graduation demonstration requirements through the district exam rather than through modifications.

Laura worked with Jill on writing district high school reading curriculum for two specific courses, during which time Laura honed her skills in question writing and creating exercises supporting inferential comprehension, all with Jill’s modeling and support. Laura also served as a Literacy Coach for Lincoln High content area teachers, helping them to incorporate reading instruction into their lessons. This work enabled Laura to identify topics for professional development that she presented at LHS and in sessions for teachers new to the Lincoln Public Schools.

She also led sessions about reading graduation demonstration exams to enable Special Education teachers to prepare their students for testing. Laura’s cadre of LHS Literacy Coaches was selected to make a presentation about their work at the National Council of Teachers of English national conference in Chicago.

This year Laura will complete her ninth year serving as the LHS Reading Facilitator, an extensive and crucial role in which she monitors testing environments and the administration of tests that will help determine the amount of academic support a student may need. She uses several sources of information including test scores, previous reading class enrollments, and teacher recommendations to place more than 300 students into the best instructional settings for developing reading skills.  She also administers a variety of testing materials individually to students who enter LHS at various times during the school year. 

As Reading Facilitator, Laura also supports the LHS reading staff, ELL teachers, and SPED teachers by guiding both their reading instruction and progress monitoring, all while advocating for high standards.  There can be no doubt that Laura’s beliefs about reading and her professional practices are carrying on Jill’s lasting legacy of passionate dedication to those students who have great needs for care and encouragement. 

The Numbers

  • Schools Served

    60

  • Focus & Specialty Programs Served

    15

  • Students Empowered

    41,784

  • Teachers & Staff Supported

    7,500+

  • Funds Received This Year

    $1.20M

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