Florence J. Clark Award for Excellence in Middle School Teaching
About the Award: This award recognizes two outstanding middle school teachers in the Lincoln Public Schools. Middle school teachers honored by the award demonstrate excellence in middle school teaching and work toward continuous improvement in student achievement and development.
Awarded Amount: $5,000
Nominated By: Rachael Kluck-Spann, Associate Principal at Irving Middle School.
Please describe why you believe the nominee is an outstanding middle school teacher. Joe Lefler has been a middle school Social Studies Teacher at Irving for many years. He prides himself in establishing strong working relationships with students, staff and families and through implementing different instructional strategies to engage all of his students in their learning. Joe also teaches an optional period in our Learning Center during 1st period. Because Joe meets every student where they are, he has been beyond influential in helping students that struggle academically, behaviorally or with truancy start their school days off on the right foot.
Joe has had a series of life altering events impact him this school year. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in December and will have brain surgery to remove the mass this month. After receiving this news, he learned his father has terminal cancer and his sister-in-law lost her own battle to cancer. Despite these heartbreaking life events, Joe has shown up to work every day with a smile and determination to continue to impact the lives of our students. He has a positive outlook on life even in the most sobering of times--and this in turn impacts all of us that get to work with him each day
What innovative techniques does the nominee use to encourage and stimulate interest and learning from their students? Joe teaches 8th grade Social Studies, which covers significant periods of US history. He uses a variety of materials to provide students with the background knowledge and perspectives of our history as they become well informed, independent thinkers. Methods used to engage students include first person perspective from varying sides of an issue, current event stories that tie into history, historical documents and collaborative projects.
Describe how the nominee has contributed to the growth and development of another staff member at their school. Joe welcomes collaboration and working with other staff members. He regularly volunteers to host practicum students and student teachers and does an outstanding job serving as their mentor. In addition, Joe has worked with other teachers in the Learning Center to identify and develop best practices as they work with students that struggle academically or behaviorally. He is always willing to help he peers and our students. For example, on occasion, we have multiple students assigned in-school suspension. Students serve this time in the Learning Center. Joe regularly offers to host a student that has been assigned in-school supervision in his classroom instead and is tremendously successful helping them to process the behavior that was disruptive, disrespectful, irresponsible, or unsafe. Joe is a leader among his peers and many of our staff seek him out to problem solve or to collaborate.