Southwest Spanish teacher honored with courage and excellence in education award

Lincoln Southwest High School Spanish teacher James Hill has been honored with the 2021 Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence in Education. 

The annual award, presented by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Education and Human Sciences, recognizes a Nebraska teacher who exemplifies the character of McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster.

It’s the third time in five years that an LPS teacher has won the award.

"Being the recipient of the Christa McAuliffe award for Courage and Education is a great honor, especially following a year that was as challenging as the 2020-21 school year,” Hill said. “In reality, this award could have gone to nearly any educator across the globe for making last year work, and I honestly just feel privileged to be included in the same category as those who have received it before me."

Those who nominated Hill said he is known for meeting students where they are in the curriculum and taking their learning further than they thought possible. He constantly tinkers with his craft, trying new strategies to better activate the learning process. When one of his students is struggling, he is quick to individualize the learning process to help advance their knowledge.

“Once a student has Mr. Hill, they do not want any other Spanish teacher,” said one nominator. “He makes his students feel better about Spanish and what they can accomplish in Spanish. Personally, I have countless examples of where Jim took one of my students who struggled in Spanish, and with extra time and hard work, got the student to perform at a higher level than the student ever anticipated.”

Hill can also be found supporting his students at sporting events, performances and other school activities. This allows him to better know his students and lets them know he cares about them as individuals, not just students in a Spanish class.

“Mr. Hill is committed to providing students with a highly engaging instructional experience,” another nominator said. “He goes above and beyond to build positive relationships with each of his students, using what he learns about who they are to tailor his instruction to their individual strengths and interests.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hill was one of the first teachers to welcome students back into the building, was vocal about the need for evaluating the progress of all learners, and helped other teachers determine the best way to achieve their objectives under such unprecedented circumstances.

Published: August 23, 2021, Updated: August 23, 2021