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Nelson Family Foundation honors four Council Bluffs Community School District Educators

Four Council Bluffs Community School District educators were presented the Nelson Family Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award during a formal ceremony on April 26 at the Council Bluffs Country Club. 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.

The 2019 recipients are Amy Gustafson, second grade teacher at Franklin Elementary, Carla Hartenhoff, school counselor at Thomas Jefferson High School, Penny Matuszeski, sixth grade social studies teacher at Kirn Middle School, and Joel Nelson, math teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School.

Amy Gustafson

Gustafson is finishing her 21st year of teaching with the Council Bluffs Community School District. Prior to her current role as a second grade teacher at Franklin Elementary, she taught special education at Roosevelt Elementary and fifth grade at Franklin. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Dana College, and received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Doane University.

Her nominators shared, “No matter which children enter her classroom, they are met with open arms. She works with each and every one of them as if they are the only child in the room.”

Gustafson inspires excellence in both teachers and students alike. As a member of the school leadership team and a building teacher leader, she has served as an early implementer for curriculum, participated in reading and math coaching cycles, and has been a cooperating teacher for student-teachers. She holds all students and colleagues to high standards and supports them. She builds self-confident and caring learners.

Carla Hartenhoff

Hartenhoff, a school counselor at Thomas Jefferson High School, has been with the Council Bluffs Community School District since 2008. Currently, she specializes in advanced education and working primarily with seniors. She has been in education for 24 years and holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in secondary school counseling. Additionally, she has a certificate in college admissions counseling from the University of California-Riverside.

A former student noted, “The transition to college can be incredibly rocky with applications, scholarships, loans, debt, transcripts and many topics foreign to young high school students. Carla not only works to make this transition smooth, but actively helps students find their future home and career path. I know I wouldn’t have gotten through it without her.”

Hartenhoff has been instrumental in organizing key programs to assist students in executing their post-secondary plans, such as evening FAFSA workshops for students and their parents; Thomas Jefferson’s College Decision Day, where students announce their commitment to a college/university/armed service; and College Application Week, where students get dedicated time and assistance from district administrators to help with the college application process.

Penny Matuszeski

Matuszeski has been with the Council Bluffs Community School District since 1995. During her time with the district, she has taught preschool, first grade and served as a reading recovery teacher and literacy strategist. Currently, she is a sixth grade social studies teacher at Kirn Middle School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Buena Vista University, as well as a master’s degree in reading from the University of Nebraska and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Doane University.

Her nominators shared, “On most evenings, you will find Penny working with and tutoring students who may be struggling. Many parents reach out to Penny hoping to get her as a tutor for their children because she is so passionate and knowledgeable and her reputation precedes her.”

“My child struggled in reading and math. He had no confidence in himself or his studies. He never did well in testing, and it was making him sad and depressed when it came to school. As his tutor, Penny was always there building his confidence, teaching him the building blocks — and now he is confident and has made the honor roll. He would not be so successful if it wasn’t for Penny.”

Joel Nelson

Nelson has been with the Council Bluffs Community School District for 13 years. During his time with the district, Nelson has taught a wide array of courses in high school mathematics. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from the University of Northern Iowa and a master’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

In the classroom, he works with instructional coaches and administrators to provide the best possible learning experiences for students. He currently serves as the chair of the Mathematics Department, and he has most recently led the department in the adoption of a new curriculum. He has participated in listening sessions related to the district grading policy and assisted in the hiring of new teachers.

His nominators shared, “As a recipient of a classroom grant, Joel used the funds to challenge students in our computer networking program to design a website that would integrate with our track meet timing system so that live scores and results could be viewed instantaneously.”

“The best educators know that teaching happens outside the walls of the classroom and beyond the eight-hour workday. They relentlessly show students how much they care by being present, by listening, by refusing to settle for the status quo and by always keeping the bar high. Joel Nelson does all of these things for his students each and every day.”