LINCOLN — Today’s all-school assembly at St. Patrick Catholic School in Lincoln started with confusion for teacher Lyndsay Hartmann but ended with a moment she’ll never forget.

“(It was) very unexpected," Hartmann said.  I come to school to teach students, not to get $25,000 checks.”

That’s what the science and English teacher left school with today after earning a Milken Educator Award.  The subject of the assembly was kept secret from students and faculty but was revealed by Milken Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley, along with the cash prize.  Hartmann says the the key to her teaching style is seeing students as individuals.

“As much as you can bring them and their interests into teaching, the easier it is to connect them to the real world and see their place in it,” Hartmann said.

Eighth grader Isabelle Hobelman has had Hartmann as a teacher since sixth grade and says she’s not surprised Hartmann earned the award.

“Mostly because she really loves us students and loves to teach us," Hobelman said.  "Whenever we have a problem, she loves to just help us out and give us a heck of a lot of wisdom.”

Hartmann is one of 40 teachers in the country to earn the award this year and the only in Nebraska.

“The true joy of teaching is amazing but I think the recognition of the hard work that goes into teaching and the respect of teachers I feel through this award is amazing,” Hartmann said.

Bio from the Milken Family Foundation:

Lyndsay Hartmann teaches both English and science to middle school students at St. Patrick Catholic School in Lincoln, Nebraska, which may explain why cross-curricular education features so prominently in her classroom. For a project on historical fiction, students read books set in the same era they’re studying in social studies, then write poems and letters from the point of view of the characters. Hartmann developed St. Patrick’s annual science fair and uses the projects to teach the scientific method through hands-on learning, including guided inquiry, problem-solving, interpreting results, and oral and written presentation skills. Students guide class discussions, sitting in a circle with their teacher observing in the background. Hartmann juggles balls to demonstrate different types of energy, with students shouting out “Kinetic! Potential!” as the balls rise and fall. Hartmann’s instructional methods work: Her students’ test scores in science, vocabulary and reading rise 20% or more between sixth and eighth grades.

Hartmann founded St. Patrick’s peer mentor program and coaches new teachers through observations and meetings. A member of the teacher advisory committee, she formulated several facets of the strategic plan to help the school and parish meet short- and long-term educational, financial and service goals. Hartmann helped develop the diocese’s English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum and organized a group book study during professional development meetings. She serves as St. Patrick’s link with the diocese’s technology office, uses SMARTboards and iPads in her classroom, and is always available to help colleagues with technology integration issues. Hartmann organizes the Learning Fair, St. Patrick’s  biggest annual fundraiser, and coordinates the meaningful eighth-grade promotion ceremony as students move to high school.

Hartmann encouraged students to enter National Geographic’s GeoChallenge, taking a St. Patrick’s team to the regional level. She founded an afterschool coding club and launched the Reading Mentor program, pairing middle schoolers with struggling readers in kindergarten and first grade. Hartmann maintains keeps an open line of communication with parents to keep them up to date on what is happening in the classroom and with their children. She attends students’ sporting events and activities and creates trusting, authentic relationships with the children she teaches. High school students often look for her when they visit. Even in middle school, Hartmann spends a lot of time talking about college readiness and takes eighth-graders to the University of Nebraska to meet with college advisors. St. Patrick’s students may not be thinking about attending college when they start middle school, but after a year absorbing Hartmann’s high expectations, they see college as a realistic possibility.

Hartmann graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2013.