Aspen Creek Elementary School art teacher Becky Cook was recently recognized as Elementary Art Educator of the Year by the Nebraska Art Teachers Association.
Following an anonymous nomination, Cook was required to complete extensive paperwork outlining her teaching experience and career, submitted alongside numerous letters of support from ACE principal Wendi Kistler, her college advisor and current and former coworkers.
That information was then compared to a rubric designed to evaluate which teachers best meet award criteria.
“I honestly was completely shocked,” Cook said. “I never thought I’d be worthy of something like that. Teachers are really humble people. I’m always looking to learn more and be a better teacher.
“Being considered, by other professionals, to be one of the best in my field… I’m totally blown away and honored that I would be chosen for something like this.”
Cook was also nominated in 2020 but did not receive the award. When she learned of her 2021 nomination, she considered declining.
“I thought, there’s no way, I’m only a ninth-year teacher, I’m not going to get anything like this,” Cook said. “Even in Gretna Public Schools I’m surrounded by phenomenal teachers. I know there are so many amazing candidates out there.
“I just didn’t think it would be a possibility.”
Cook graduated from Wayne State College in 2013 with a degree in K-12 education. She taught K-8 art for four years at St. Robert Bellarmine before coming to open Aspen Creek Elementary School in 2017.
With then-limited art options for younger students in Fort Calhoun, Cook’s passion for art started in middle school. In high school, she took as many art classes as she could, later serving as a teaching assistant for her high school art teacher.
“I don’t really know what else I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “I always majored in that; that was what I was planning on doing. Student teaching kind of cemented it.”
Through student teaching in the Papillion-La Vista school district, Cook learned she liked working with young artists’ best.
“I definitely enjoy teaching the younger kids,” she said. “They’re very passionate about art. They love coming and are always excited.”
Cook will receive her award at the 2021 NATA Fall Conference Awards Ceremony on Oct. 22 in Omaha.