Introducing Mr. Whiz: 2019 Sanford Teacher Award Grand Prize Winner

News   |   February 6, 2020

Introducing Mr. Whiz: 2019 Sanford Teacher Award Grand Prize Winner

Wowza! What an absolutely unbelievable 4 months! I never imagined I would win a national teacher award, let alone be named the Sanford Teacher Award Grand Prize Winner!

Honestly, receiving this award has caused me to do a ton of reflecting on my career and how it has been influenced by many incredible people. Over the next few months, I plan to blog about my journey and some of the powerful ideas that I believe will shape the educational landscape in the future.

In this first blog, I will tell you a little about where I came from and how my classroom at Reagan Elementary in Millard Public Schools (Omaha, NE) discovered the power of persuasion.

I am a 2003 graduate of Wayne State College. During my time at Wayne State, I was a multi-year intramural swimming champion and was a member of the WSC cross-country and track teams. 

After graduating, I accepted a position with Millard Public Schools, where I have spent the last 17 years loving my work. I have worked as a 4th and 5th grade classroom teacher and have also spent a few years as a Building Facilitator. Throughout those years, I continued my studies with a Masters of Education from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and with a Masters in Educational Leadership from Doane College.

Last year, my class learned about the Nebraska Legislature by convincing their state legislator, Louanne Linehan, to introduce a bill that would have deemed corn the official state grain of Nebraska. The bill, LB 105, received a hearing, where several of my students were able to see first-hand how the legislative process worked. Their work was even featured on Omaha’s WOWT Channel 6.

Although the bill never made it out of committee, my students did not give up. They wrote letters to Governor Pete Ricketts, and in May, the governor visited Millard’s Reagan Elementary and met with students to explain his decision not to make corn an “official” state symbol.

In November of 2018, I was named the National University Sanford Teacher Award Winner for the state of Nebraska, which made me a finalist for the 2019 National University Sanford Teacher Award National Award. In a later all-school assembly, I was honored to be named the inaugural winner of the National University Sanford Teacher Award Grand Prize.

It is a very humbling experience to be singled out in a field of amazing educators. Thousands and thousands of teachers all across our country do extraordinary work with students every day.

I am passionate about Social Emotional Learning (SEL), guiding students to authentically love learning, and inspiring teachers to love, or continue to love, educating students.

I currently reside in Omaha, with my wife Kelly, and two children. 

I love Twitter and often tweet out our classroom activities! Follow me at: @thomaswhiz