Scott Phillips, a 2016 graduate of Doane’s Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and adjunct professor in the same program, was named the 2024 Nebraska Teacher of the Year on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The award was made during a surprise presentation in the middle of one of Phillips’s classes at Aurora Middle School, where he teaches seventh-grade math.
He was chosen for the honor by a panel of Nebraska educators, and was one of three finalists. A press release from the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) said the Teacher of the Year program recognizes the contributions of classroom teachers who are exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, skilled, and who have the ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.
“He [Phillips] is very deserving of this award and I feel blessed to have him as an adjunct instructor. Doane graduate students are so fortunate to have Scott as their instructor,” said Deb Stuto, Doane’s Curriculum and Instruction program director and assistant professor of practice in the College of Education. “Scott teaches with passion and enthusiasm. You can’t help but jump into content and learn alongside him. He makes whatever he is teaching come to life!”
Phillips began his career in 2010 after receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and has taught all 13 years at Aurora. In that time, he has taught seventh-grade math, pre-algebra and a math intervention program, along with his adjunct classes at Doane.
The NDE press release said Phillips seemingly does the impossible in his classroom by getting his students excited about math while having fun learning it. He incorporates high energy activities, music and games to engage his students along with videos showing how math is applied to real-world situations and everyday life.
“By the time students reach 7th grade they already have an emotional attachment to how math makes them feel,” Phillips said in his application. “They consider themselves ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at math and oftentimes it’s solely based on their past experiences in elementary school or misconceptions from parents. I may not be able to get every student to believe they’re great at math, but I aim to see an increase in their perseverance, problem solving strategies, and ultimately their confidence in themselves.”
Phillips told the NDE his main goals as Teacher of the Year are to help promote excellence as a habit, encourage a healthy balance in life and to not be afraid to fail but instead, let failure lead to growth. He also wants to promote the teaching profession to inspire new teachers and to remind veteran teachers why they chose to be a teacher.
In addition to his time in the classroom, Phillips is involved in the Aurora community, is a member of the National Education Association, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the Nebraska State Education Association. Phillips also coaches basketball and works as a mentor in the school. Later this year, he will participate in the National Teacher of the Year competition.