Concordians change lives. That fact has not gone unnoticed by the Lutheran Education Association (LEA), which recently honored four of our alumni with prestigious awards.
Brian Betts (2014), principal at Immanuel Lutheran School in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., was named the 2019 Distinguished Lutheran Elementary Administrator. Science and technology teacher Jonathan Bolt (2005, 2015) received the Distinguished Lutheran Middle School Teacher Award for his work at Central Lutheran School in New Haven, Ind. Stacy Hoeft (1996), president and chief executive officer of Lutheran Special Education Ministries in Farmington Hills, Mich, received LEA’s top honor, the Christus Magister Award. And double alumna Dauna Werner (1987, 2004) was selected to receive the Distinguished Early Childhood Teacher Award for her work at St. Paul Lutheran in Grafton, Wis.
Among Brian’s joys in ministry, he said, “… is the opportunity to see God’s hand in all that is part of ministry. The ministry at Immanuel makes such an impact on the families we serve. I love building those relationships with God’s hand guiding as we go. My goal is that people see Christ through me.”
In support of Brian’s nomination, his pastor wrote, “Brian sets the bar high for our teachers, encourages and challenges his coworkers, and is always willing to jump in and help out. He never asks others to do something he isn’t willing to do himself. Brian seems always to be with people, talking with students, greeting parents, and working on projects. For Brian, ministry is not a 9 to 5, clock-in-clock-out endeavor, but a vocation and a way of life. He does not limit his responsibilities only to what a ‘traditional’ principal or administrator would do, but rather identifies whatever needs or opportunities may arise and strives to meet them.”
Jonathan’s pastor described him this way: “Jon serves our Lord by chairing the Evangelism Committee, participating in the church choir, volunteering for Vacation Bible School and various Bible studies. His contributions demonstrate his servant’s heart and theological depth. I am sure that he is unaware that his presence at St. Paul Lutheran Church is a blessing to others. He carries out the vocation of church member, husband, and father with dignity and distinction.”
Jonathan says of himself: “I can honestly say that the greatest preparation I had for teaching the Christian Faith was being raised by Lutheran educators and growing up in Lutheran Schools. These gave me the solid faith foundation I needed and attending a Concordia helped build the rest. At each congregation I have served, I regularly attend Bible studies, spend time in my own devotional study of the Word, and lead my family in devotions.”
Since 1965, the Christus Magister Award has been presented to Lutheran educators who have made significant contributions to Lutheran education. Stacy is president/CEO of Lutheran Special Education Ministries, a national LCMS RSO serving thousands of special education students in more than 60 schools across the United States. She previously served Lutheran education as a principal, early childhood director, teacher, and athletic director. Past honors and recognitions include Van Lunen Fellow, SLED Mentor, LCMS Michigan District Principal of the Year, and keynote speaker on the topics of documentation and a U.S. Supreme Court case in protection of the ministerial exception.
When asked about her greatest joys in ministry, Stacy said, “It’s difficult to narrow down all my joys because I am truly blessed by joys EVERY SINGLE DAY! So often, the special education students I serve are forced to make a decision between receiving the special education services they need and the Christian education they so desire. Being able to see the relief on the faces of students and their parents that through our services they are able to have BOTH brings me great joy.”
Stacy’s nominator said: “Perhaps Stacy’s greatest impact for Lutheran schools and educators was her role in the US Supreme Court case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In this landmark case, Stacy successfully worked with legal counsel to defend the ministerial exception that allows our church and schools to call workers without the interference of the federal government. Stacy dedicated eight years of her life to this legal effort, which ultimately led to the church’s victory with a unanimous 9-0 decision in January of 2012. By answering, ‘Here am I, send me,’ Stacy has been given the opportunity to impact Lutheran education at the local, regional, and national levels.”
In support of Dauna’s nomination, one parent said: “One day while we were driving home from school, [my son] stated that he had forgotten to tell Mrs. Werner something. We proceeded to asked him what it was, and he answered, ‘That I love her.’ This is evidence of the trusting relationship she builds with each child to allow them to grow and flourish.”
Dauna says of her mission: “Raised in a Christian home of educators, God began nurturing my gifts to work with children at an early age. Helping my parents work in their classrooms, I learned firsthand what it meant to be a servant leader. As a child’s first formal classroom teacher, parents look to me for guidance as they begin their educational journey with their child. My classroom is centered on Jesus Christ as our Savior and friend. I pray that the children and families under my care will grow to know Jesus and see how he is an important part of their everyday lives.”
Congratulations to these Concordian alumni. You make the CUW family proud!
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