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Nelson Family Foundation Honors Three Council Bluffs Community School District Educators

Three Council Bluffs Community School District educators have been presented the Nelson Family Foundation Excellence in Teaching Awards for 2018. They join dozens of other Council Bluffs educators who have been honored with this award since 2008, in honor of H.H. “Red” and Ruth H. Nelson.

Recipients are Jennifer Pearce, kindergarten teacher at College View Elementary, Zach Pope, special education teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School, and Dick Wettengel, physical education teacher at Kanesville Alternative Learning Center.

Jennifer Pearce

Jennifer has been with the Council Bluffs Community School District for 20 years. During her time with the district, she has taught kindergarten, first and second grades. Currently she is the kindergarten teacher at College View Elementary. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and early childhood special education from the University of Northern Iowa, and a master’s degree in reading education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Her nominators shared, ““Every day, Jennifer demonstrates caring, compassion and commitment to every child. In referencing Robert Fulghum’s ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,’ one parent noted that there is a lot of truth in the title. They have experienced firsthand the impact that Jennifer has had on their child, and they are confident that their child has been taught all the things she ‘really needs to know.’ She finds unique ways to engage each student and sets the stage for them to enjoy going to school and becoming life-long learners.

“Jennifer understands that children learn the most when parents and teachers work as a team, and she therefore tries to engage every parent. She regularly shares classroom updates on Facebook, allowing parents to ask their child specific questions about their school day. This creates an opportunity to further engage and continue the learning at home.”

Zach Pope

Zach has been with the Council Bluffs Community School District since 2014. Currently, Pope is a special education teacher in the Behavior Support Program at Thomas Jefferson High School. Before moving to TJ, he was a special education teacher at the Academic Center at Children’s Square USA. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as a Master of Arts in school principalship from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a Master of Arts in special education from Morningside College.

As his nominators noted, “Zach has a high level of professionalism and passion for teaching in our district. He not only develops a curriculum for several subjects at a time but also provides exceptional behavioral services and advocates for each student and their needs. He keeps a structured atmosphere in the classroom and effectively holds students accountable. He encourages students to set realistic goals and gives them guidance on how to pursue them.

“Zach builds strong relationships with very troubled students who are in need of those extra supports. He cares about what happens to each student inside and outside the classroom. As a current student put it, ‘Having Mr. Pope as one of my teachers has changed my life. He is always patient and takes the time to make sure that you actually understand what you are working on.’ Another student noted that ‘He helped me get caught up on my credits. Thanks to Mr. Pope, I graduated.’

Dick Wettengel

Throughout his 38-year career in teaching, Dick has taught in four Council Bluffs high schools, including St. Albert, Lewis Central, Abraham Lincoln, and the Kanesville Alternative Learning Center.  His roles have included teaching social studies and physical education, and at one time serving as the Activities Director at St. Albert High School. For the past five years, Dick has been teaching high school physical education at Kanesville Alternative Learning Center.

“Dick is a very caring and innovative teacher who works hard at encouraging all students to take an active role in their physical health through lifelong exercise and leisure activities,” nominators said. “When first starting in his role at Kanesville, he faced two significant challenges: a very small gym and many reluctant students. He spoke with students to assess their interests and built the P.E. curriculum around those interests.

“Dick has also fostered a sense of service in his students. During the floods in Houston last fall, Dick and other staff led a large group of Kanesville students to the YMCA to assist in loading up bottled water that had been collected in response to the call for donations across the community.

“Dick has a gift for building positive relationships with his students. He is always compassionate and attentive and constantly looking for those opportunities to build students up. His impact on students’ lives lasts long after their time in his classroom, and we are fortunate to have him serving the youth of our community.”