2021 Award Winners
ACTEN CTE Administrator of the Year
Daniel Phillips, Director of Innovation for Career and College Readiness for Grand Island Public Schools
Daniel Phillips is the Director of Innovation for Career & College Readiness for Grand Island Public Schools, responsible for the Academies of Grand Island Senior High, all career and technical education programs, and dual education partnerships within the district. He is responsible for all curriculum implementation as well as managing partnerships for all CTE programs. Prior to his current role, he was an Academy Principal for the Academy of Technical Sciences, which received NCAC National Model Status in 2019, and Director of the Career Pathways Institute since its inception. Before moving into administration with Grand Island Public Schools, Daniel taught Drafting and Architecture for 10 years in Wichita, Kansas.
In addition to his responsibilities within GIPS, Daniel is active on several local and state boards. He currently serves as the past-president of the Association for Career and Technical Education of Nebraska. He also serves on the Nebraska Career Academy Advisory committee to help establish and monitor Career Academy standards statewide. Daniel has presented at numerous state and national conferences about the formation and successes of the Career Pathways Institute, the Academies of Grand Island Senior High, and Registered Apprenticeships.
The Grand Island Public Schools superintendent states, “Mr. Phillips is very skilled at working with various organizations from Economic Development Cooperation, Chamber of Commerce, and higher education institutions. For years the district had looked to negotiated different AP/Dual credit options for students. Once I handed this charge off to Mr. Phillips, he was able to do the research and get the data needed that ultimately led to all students receiving dual credit classes at no cost. He is able to clearly understand the vision of the school district, industry partners and the greater community. He is relentless about finding solutions. Mr. Phillips is a hardworking, data-analyzing, and top-performing administrator and GIPS is indebted to having him on our team.”
ACTEN Post-Secondary Teacher of the Year
Eric Knoll, Associate Professor of Practice; Skilled and Technical Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Eric Knoll earned his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology and his master’s degree in Vocational Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He was the District Curriculum Specialist for the Skilled and Technical Sciences program in the Lincoln Public School system for seven years. Additionally, he taught Industrial Technology for 24 years at Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Nebraska before serving at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He currently serves as an Associate Professor of Practice in charge of the Skilled and Technical Sciences Teaching Option. The STS teaching option is a 2+2 program where the students gain 60 credits towards this bachelor’s degree program at the community college and combine those with 60 credit hours earned at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Eric serves as the advisor and coordinator for this unique teacher preparation program.
A colleague writes, “A significant strength of Eric is his strong relationship and commitment with business and industry which aligns with the Quality CTE Program of Study Framework in the emphasis on Business and Community Partnerships and Work-based Learning. Eric has singlehandedly raised over $125,000 from local businesses and industries to support STS pre-service teacher scholarships and paid internships. In my 32-year career as a CTE teacher, teacher educator, and university administrator, I can think of no one else who embodies the passion for teaching and learning in the context of career and technical education combined with the vision of ‘CTE for All’ as much as Eric Knoll.”
ACTEN CTE Teacher of the Year and Trade and Industrial Education Teacher of the Year
Ronald Haefner, Trade and Industrial Education Teacher, Columbus Public Schools
Ronald Haefner grew up on a dairy farm in northeast Kansas. It was in this environment that he developed his early mechanical and electrical skills which greatly assisted in the maintenance and operation of the farm. Ronald attended Fort Hays State University with an emphasis in industrial technology and industrial education. He graduated in 1989, with the following areas of concentration: automotive, machining, and woods. He completed his Master of Science in Industrial Education at Fort Hays State University in 1991. In 1989 he began teaching automotive technology at Columbus High School.
Mr. Haefner was named Nebraska Valvoline Teacher of the Year in 1993. He led the Columbus High School students to the National Automotive Skills Contest 14 out of 28 years, with a 5th place national win in 1999. He has authored three different automotive textbooks, The Car Care Book, 3rd and 4th editions, and Automotive Technology: For General Service Technicians and was named Columbus Public Schools Teacher of the Year in 2014.
Ron’s principal says, “As an educator, Mr. Haefner is one of the most knowledgeable educators in his field. He is constantly looking for ways to increase the knowledge of the students through techniques and technology. With the help of local industry partners and Columbus Public Schools, Mr. Haefner was able to design an automotive lab that houses some of the most advanced technology and equipment available to automotive education. Because of his leadership and innovation, the Columbus High School Automotive Department is second to none.”
ACTEN New Teacher of the Year
Rachel Hruza, Family and Consumer Sciences Education Teacher, North Star High School, Lincoln, Nebraska
Rachel Hruza is part of the Family and Consumer Sciences Department staff at North Star High School. She currently teaches Infants & Toddlers, Lifespan Development, Preschool & School Age Child, and Families & Crises. Her professional goal is to be a servant leader who benefits both students and educators. She is passionate about creating innovative FCS curriculum, influential relationship building activities, and creative instructional practices. These passions foster a powerful growth environment that helps students build a sense of purpose, relate course content to real life, and form significant relationships with others. She continually advocates for the importance of FCS courses and the key opportunities that they provide for students to successfully prepare for their futures. Sharing these methods and materials with other educators provides students additional opportunities for positive experiences across all course content areas and an increase in meaningful possibilities to form life changing relationships with their teachers.
While at North Star, Rachel has served on numerous committees. She served on the SIP committee and Instructional Strategies committee. Rachel has presented at the NCE Conference on “Using Hyper-Docs” in the classroom. She has presented “Building Classroom Culture Through Relationships and Digital Workbooks” nine times to Doane University graduate classes and eight times to district tenure classes.
“Over the past several years, I have seen Rachel shine in the classroom and grow as a teacher. She is dynamic and powerful teacher who knows how to create lessons to help motivate and inspire her students to strive for excellence. Her expertise is to be able to turn her lessons into interactive lessons for all of the classes she teaches. Rachel has a way of making learning fun and exciting for students and her peers with her unique teaching style,” writes her assistant principal.
ACTEN Member of the Year
Debra Ziegler, Health Science Educator/Former Health Sciences Educator at Ralston Public Schools
During Debra’s 37 years at Ralston High School, she served as the HOSA Adviser, Director of Alumni Development NE HOSA, and a classroom teacher. From 1993-2012, Debra served as the State HOSA Adviser. As the State HOSA Advisor, she coordinated state-wide events related to the student organization including three conferences, travel to National Conferences and leadership training for state officers. In the classroom, she developed the Medical Sciences Academy and the Health Sciences pathway for Ralston High School. As Director of Alumni Development for Nebraska HOSA, she developed a data base of health science/HOSA members. She states that “the HOSA alumni can be of great benefit to the health science instructors and students. Alumni can also serve as mentors, judges, and supporters of the HOSA organization.” In the classroom, Mrs. Ziegler taught Intro to Health Science, Medical Terminology, CERT, Medical Sciences Academy I & II, and Nursing Assistant.
Debra has an Associate Degree in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing Education. She is a Registered Nurse, holds a Nebraska Teaching Certification-Health Occupations 7-12, is an American Red Cross CPR/First Aid Instructor, and a member of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). She has served as the Secretary of the Nebraska HOSA Board of Directors. In 2017 she was recognized as the Nebraska HOSA Outstanding Advisor. Debra currently serves as the Health Sciences Division representative on the ACTEN board in which she has held since 2010.
ACTEN Counseling and Career Development Professional of the Year
Ronda Ras, School Counselor at Bancroft-Rosalie Community Schools
Currently in her twenty-seventh year at Bancroft-Rosalie, Ronda Ras joined the faculty as the high school English teacher. After fourteen years in the classroom, she began the transition into her current role as school counselor. She continues to teach two dual-credit English courses, along with junior high career readiness and senior advisory classes. She serves on the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Team, the High School Multi-Tiered System of Support Team, the regional Psychological First Aid for Schools Committee, the Pathways 2 Tomorrow Counselors’ Group, the Habitudes for Career Ready Students Leadership Committee, and the Career Readiness School Improvement Committee.
She also assists with program coordination for the school’s EducationQuest College Access Grant and coordination of dual-credit course offerings. Ras is the head competitive one-act play and varsity speech coach and advise the National Honor Society. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education with a Field Endorsement in Language Arts, a Master of Arts in Education in English, and a Master of Science in Education in School Counseling, all from Wayne State College.
A colleague says this about Ronda, “It brings me great pleasure to provide this recommendation for Ronda Ras. As a coworker of Ronda’s, I have witnessed the transformation of CTE within the Bancroft-Rosalie School. Mrs. Ras’s dedication and long-term vision make our students focused on their future and career ready. In my opinion, you could not find a more devoted and accomplished counselor as Ronda to recognize for this award.”
ACTEN Family and Consumeer Sciences Education Teacher of the Year
Michelle Galles, Family and Consumer Sciences Education Teacher of the Year, Wakefield Community Schools
Michelle Galles has been teaching at Wakefield Community Schools for seven years. Michelle graduated from Wayne State College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Consumer Sciences Education and has also earned a Master’s Degree from Wayne State College in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership. In addition, Michelle holds an endorsement in Health Sciences.
Michelle has served in various leadership roles including: FCCLA District Adviser (5 years), FCCLA District STAR Coordinator (3 years), Nebraska FCCLA Board of Directors (current) and serves on a committee for Family Consumer Sciences Teachers of Nebraska FCSTN. Michelle has a successful FCCLA chapter of 70 members who are actively involved in school and community service projects. Wakefield FCCLA members have competed at the district, state and national level along with receiving numerous awards and recognition from Nebraska State FCCLA. Michelle also serves on numerous school committees and is the school’s NHS sponsor.
Michelle has received the FCSTN 1-5 Teacher of the Year Award, Nebraska FCCLA Master Adviser Award, Nebraska Spirit of Advising FCCLA Award, and Nebraska Career Educator Outstanding FCCLA Advisor.
Michelle has a strong passion for Family and Consumer Sciences education and loves working with a variety of high school and pre-service college students. Michelle has continued to work with pre-service college students from Wayne State College (WSC), Wayne Nebraska. She has supervised three student teachers and over 10 FCS students completing observation hours. In addition, Michelle taught as an adjunct professor for WSC Family & Consumer Sciences department for three years.
Region V New Teacher of the Year
Miranda Bright, Family and Consumer Sciences Education Teacher, Crete High School
Miranda Bright is the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Crete High School. She is committed and passionate about teaching FCS education and advising FCCLA. Her philosophy of teaching centers around experiential learning through engaging strategies. While teaching, she demonstrates innovation via technology and gamification. Highlights include modifying popular games to increase student engagement and achievement. Ms. Bright was instrumental in creating a FCCLA chapter at Crete. As a member of the Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers of Nebraska public relations committee, she actively highlights members, promotes the achievements, and shares classroom activities of Nebraska FCS teachers on social media.
In her classroom, she demonstrates innovation via technology and gamification. With the Pear Deck for Google Slides Add-on, she added the magic of Pear Deck’s formative assessments and interactive questions to her presentations. Her students use Webquest to learn the most up to date information. She modified Guess Who and Jenga games to increase engagement and motivation to achieve student success. When teaching ServSafe, she has adapted the Pokemon Go game called ServSafe Go to encourage students to pass assignments and “catch” pathogen badges, which she created for the students.
Her principal writes, “Miranda has high expectations for her students. She is willing to work outside of class with students who seek extra help. Miranda has the ability to break down tough concepts in a manner that even struggling learners can understand. Miranda’s passion and dedication has helped develop our culinary arts program.”