Three alums earn 2021 LEA teaching honors
Three Concordia University, Nebraska alumni recently received teaching awards from the Lutheran Education Association for the impact they make on their students.
David Gesch ’85
Distinguished Lutheran Middle School Teacher
David Gesch was selected to receive Lutheran Education Association’s 2021 Distinguished Lutheran Middle School Teacher Award. He teaches various subjects in grades 4–8 and serves as athletic director and coach at Redeemer Christian Academy in Wayzata, Minnesota. David has also served in Wisconsin.
When asked about his greatest joys in ministry, David said, “One of my great joys is when I see my kids very matter-of-factly talking about Jesus with that unwavering, undoubting, child-like faith.” He continued, “As far as pure joy goes, nothing beats an unchurched, no-faith background child coming in to my room and seeing them leave with an active faith!”
Parental support for David’s nomination included this accolade: “David has taught each one of our children. David has served in a variety of leadership positions at Redeemer, such as that of interim school principal, as an elder…a referee at countless basketball games, as basketball coach…as athletic director for the school…. In addition to David’s extensive involvement in sports, he is also responsible for creating and coordinating the celebration of Veterans Day…to lift up, pray for, and thank those who have and currently serve our nation in uniform.”
David’s pastor also supports his nomination. “David and I have worked together in ministry, pastor and teacher, for six and a half years at Redeemer Christian Academy. Two of our four daughters who attend R.C.A. have had the blessing of being mentored by this man of God. At home they talk about his funny quips, his love of the Green Bay Packers, but most of all, his love of Jesus and his effective teaching style–— personable, high standards, engaged with the students.”
David’s nominator captured his qualifications for this award. “His love of Christ shows through everything he does. The middle schoolers respect his consistent and calm demeanor. Mr. Gesch goes above and beyond for his students in everyday teaching and in the events he leads outside of the school day. One of his most important legacies is the Veteran’s Day celebration…. He brings in veterans from our community and honors them through letters and poems, and the children write songs and speeches.”
David’s personal mission statement is “Building servant leaders who love their Savior and love their country!”
Becky McKinney GR ’11
Distinguished Lutheran Early Childhood Teacher
Becky McKinney was selected to receive Lutheran Education Association’s 2021 Distinguished Lutheran Early Childhood Teacher Award. Becky teaches at Central Lutheran School in Newhall, Iowa, where she also serves on a variety of committees and volunteers to help with extra-curricular activities. She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, with a double major in early childhood and elementary education. Becky also earned a master’s in early childhood education from Concordia Nebraska. She was previously honored as Early Childhood Educator of the Year by the LCMS Iowa District East.
Becky describes one of her greatest joys in ministry as watching the children learn about Jesus and hearing them talk about what they have learned in their play. She says it is “rewarding to see them take what they learn and share God’s love with family members.” Becky’s nominator said, “Becky is the ideal Lutheran preschool teacher—patient, caring, Christ-like, and always positive. Parents have said many times one main reason they bring their children to our preschool is because of the teacher—Mrs. Becky McKinney.”
In support of Becky’s nomination, one of her pastors said, “Building relationships appears to be one of Becky’s passions. She instills friendly, respectful, and loving relationships among her students. Every child is made to feel special. She listens intently to each child’s story. Becky communicates well with parents, sending texts and taking a moment to visit with each parent when they pick up their children. Most importantly, Mrs. Becky encourages each child’s relationship with Jesus. She is conscientious about incorporating faith and the love of Jesus into everything she teaches.”
Also supporting Becky’s nomination, one parent commented, “As a parent, I appreciate the way she communicates with us. She has always been kind, honest, and always goes out of her way to help any way she can. Her love of teaching shines through with her enthusiasm she has for her kids.”
Becky’s personal mission statement is “to share the love of Jesus with my students and their families through my words and actions.”
Hannah Sugita ’18
Outstanding New Lutheran Elementary Teacher
Hannah Sugita has taught one year of third grade at Our Shepherd Lutheran School in Avon, Indiana. Hannah graduated with a degree in education with a concentration in ESL and a Lutheran Teacher Diploma from Concordia University, Nebraska. Among Hannah’s joys in teaching, she said, “I find great joy in the moments when students independently explain and share the life skills learned in the classroom to areas outside the classroom. The greatest joy is when students grow in their love of learning and start to take ownership over their learning.”
Hannah’s nominator supported her selection by saying, “Hannah demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to her students and their families. …her maturity and composure are a mark of the work of the Holy Spirit in her heart. She has established restoration routines of students who have misbehaved…modeled after how Jesus restores all of us. After only a year and a half of teaching, Hannah has established herself as a woman of God who is committed to sharing the love of Jesus through educational excellence.”
The school administrator further supported Hannah’s selection. “Hannah develops relationships with her students and parents and continues to foster them throughout the year in a genuine and personal manner. Her desire to be the hands and feet of Christ, to show love and humility, to model servanthood, and to teach in a way that benefits and grows the child academically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially drives her curriculum and interactions.”
Hannah’s pastor concurs with what others said. “Hannah not only shines as a teacher in our school, but she shines in the public as well with the Gospel! She regularly sings in our contemporary worship services and volunteers at church activities. She is also active in the local Bible study fellowship group.”
Hannah’s mission statement is “to provide students with meaningful opportunities to practice authentic application of classroom expectations based around Scripture to reflect the love of Christ. It is my goal to help students feel safe in their learning in order to find individual success.”