English teacher Katie Mace is making a big impact in her small district. Mace teaches English and speech at all levels of Lyons-Decatur Northeast’s (LDNE) high school in Lyons, Nebraska. Her exceptional instructional practices keep students engaged and excited as they hone their reading and language arts skills. During a unit on medieval literature and culture, students invite staff and peers to a medieval feast. Mace’s speech students recite the Gettysburg Address and make “Shark Tank”-style pitches for fictional business ideas. Her pupils enter and earn recognition in local and national writing contests. When LDNE received an “Integrating the Arts” grant, Mace was the first teacher to attend workshops and welcome instructors into her room to weave arts education into her curriculum. These cross-curricular strategies helped Mace keep students interested and engaged during pandemic school closures. One virtual project involved making t-shirts at home out of found objects and decorating them with catchy slogans related to “The Hobbit” for an online “trashion show.” Mace’s students regularly top state averages on the English section of the ACT, and former students credit her with their college and career successes.
Mace heads LDNE’s school improvement team, which drives professional development and helps teachers analyze data to enhance their instruction, as well as serving on the school’s MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports) team. Learning walks for LDNE staff often include Mace’s classroom to give colleagues a window into her classroom management and instructional strategies. She has led professional development on maintaining student engagement and increasing reading achievement. For students from LDNE and other nearby districts, Mace teaches dual enrollment English classes with Nebraska Wesleyan.
In addition to academics, Mace goes to great lengths to care for students’ social-emotional needs. She holds a master’s in counseling and spends one period each day working with students individually and in small groups. Mace coaches the One Act drama team, which often reaches and earns honors at state-level competitions. As the senior class sponsor, Mace leads fundraising efforts and organizes all senior events, including graduation rehearsal, senior breakfast and the commencement ceremony. The role also involves making sure seniors are on track to graduate, paying careful attention to those who might otherwise slip through the cracks. Colleagues, families and community members remark on how much LDNE’s seniors mature during their final year as they prepare for the next steps in their lives.
Mace earned a bachelor’s in secondary English in 2003 from the University of Nebraska, a master’s in English curriculum and instruction in 2011 from Wayne State College, and a master’s in counseling in 2014 from Creighton University in Nebraska.
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