Shine a light and nominate a dedicated teacher for Heart of Education Awards by midnight Jan. 18.

By Debbie Hall

Regardless of what is reported in the news about education in Nevada, there are still very devoted and dedicated teachers. In appreciation, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and The Rogers Foundation are still accepting nominations through midnight on Jan. 18 for the third-annual Heart of Education Awards.

Created by The Smith Center, a nonprofit organization, to honor teachers in the Clark County School District, who go above and beyond to support their students. Finalists will be honored at a red-carpet event on April 20 in Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center. The awards event will include live entertainment and a hosted reception for all finalists, with 20 winners each receiving a cash prize of $5,000, plus a $1,000 donation to a school program of their choice.

“Clark County has so many incredible teachers whose stories simply aren’t told enough,” said Myron Martin, Smith Center president and CEO. “The Smith Center has been moved by the inspiring teachers recognized in this event’s first two years, and we are thrilled this program has taken off with so many community members submitting nominations. It is deeply rewarding to partner with The Rogers Foundation in celebrating the educators who shape our students’ lives.”

Eric Stensrud was one of 20 teachers to receive a 2016 Heart of Education Award. He was chosen from several hundred finalists, by a group of community leaders who reviewed both community members’ nominations and teachers’ submitted essays.

Stensrud was honored for his work as an physics and robotic teacher at Cimarron-Memorial High School. Working with the school’s robotics program for more than a decade, he helped it grow and achieve world ranking. He also contributed to the growth of female participants, including assigning one evening for only girls to work with the program.

He now works as project facilitator in the career and tech education department of Clark County School District, with a focus on manufacturing, engineering and robotics programs district wide.

“As an educator, I was giving kids STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] skills since robotics is not a specific job but uses all of these skills,” he said. “It includes programming, fabrication, team work and design. It encompasses so much and robotics is a medium to teach those skills.”

The Rogers Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is the driving force in support of honoring hardworking educators in Southern Nevada.

“The Rogers Foundation is committed to shining a spotlight on the extraordinary dedication and passion of our Clark County school teachers,” said Beverly Rogers, chairman of The Rogers Foundation board. “We are looking forward to this year’s nomination process as more and more students, parents, peers and administrators share their stories of the many amazing educators right here in Southern Nevada.”

“The Heart of Education Awards allow our community to come together every year and honor our teachers. There is nothing like this event in most communities across the United States,” said CCSD Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky. “The Smith Center and The Rogers Foundation have found a way to tell the stories of teachers who impact students not only for one year, but for their entire lives. We are grateful to be partners in this endeavor.”

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas serves as the program’s Teachers Award sponsor, with additional support from KSNV-TV (News 3), The CW Las Vegas, Nevada State Bank and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Community supporters include NV Energy, Findlay Chevrolet, MGM Resorts International, The Bennett Foundation and Western Governors University.

Nominations for The Smith Center’s third-annual Heart of Education Awards is open through midnight on Jan.18. Anyone can nominate an outstanding CCSD teacher at www.TheHeartofEducation.org.

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