Mrs. Bundy rules.
That pretty well summed up the feeling at Ashland-Greenwood Middle School Tuesday afternoon.
Kristi Bundy, a sixth-grade science teacher at the school, was named 2014 Nebraska Teacher of the Year Tuesday in a surprise announcement inside the gymnasium.
Bundy, 51, said she was “overwhelmed” and almost cried at the honor.
Students piled onto bleachers for what they thought would be a pep rally, but ended up giving Bundy a standing ovation. Many students hugged Bundy and patted her on the back. One boy shouted, “Mrs. Bundy rules.”
School officials used the ruse of a fall activities pep rally to set up the announcement, with Deputy Nebraska Education Commissioner Scott Swisher stepping to the microphone to reveal the real purpose of the gathering and present the award.
Bundy thanked the students, telling them: “I plan to do the best job I can representing Nebraska teachers.”
The honor makes her eligible for National Teacher of the Year.
Afterward, Bundy said she had “no clue” she was about the be honored. She knew something was up, though, when she noticed some photographers lurking about the gym and local dignitaries started filing into the gym.
She is a hometown girl, having grown up in Ashland and attended kindergarten through high school in Ashland-Greenwood schools.
The district, located 32 miles southwest of Omaha, has about 850 students.
“I'm trying hard not to cry because it is a little overwhelming,” she said. “But it's just such an honor to represent our school, a school I graduated from. My children went here, and my granddaughter goes here, too. And I can honestly say, I wouldn't want her to go to a different school. I believe in what our system does here.”
The teachers, administrators and school board members are supportive, she said.
Bundy's two sisters are also teachers. Leisa Rogers teaches middle and high school health and physical education in Ashland-Greenwood, and Tina Schofield teaches at St. Vincent de Paul in Omaha.
Bundy's daughter, Kelsy Cooper, teaches third grade and is also a speech coach at Ashland-Greenwood.
And, Leisa Rogers has two daughters who are teachers.
Bundy credited her parents for their example of hard work and self-discipline.
Her father is a barber in Ashland. Her mother is a part-time office manager.
Bundy said she believes in the Nebraska public school system and in the state's efforts to improve the quality of teaching.
She said she did not grow up with a passion for science, but once hired as a science teacher in Ashland, she grew to love it.
It's become a calling, she said.
“I think I'm doing the job I was born to do,” she said.
Ashland-Greenwood Superintendent Zachary Kassebaum described her as a leader with an “I can” attitude that's contagious.
A committee that includes a retired educator, retired superintendent, the president of the state teachers union and a member of the Nebraska State Board of Education examines applications and selects Award of Excellence teachers. Each of those teachers is interviewed to determine the Nebraska Teacher of the Year.
This year's Award of Excellence teachers are Lisa Graham, Waverly High School, Robert Henrichs, Lincoln Southwest High School, and Judith Ann Stucky, Westside High School.
The 2013 Nebraska Teacher of the Year was Angela Mosier, a mathematics teacher at Westside High School.