LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Deborah Ward

Position: AP English Instructor
School: Harry A. Burke High School
School District: Omaha Public Schools
City, State: Omaha, NE

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Deborah Ward was nominated by her parents, Richard and Karen King

Ms. Ward's parents say that she was born to be a school teacher, as she has always helped students achieve their scholastic goals. She has such a passion for helping her students that it isn't unusual for her to put in 12 hour days, tutoring athletes and anyone else who needs help with their school studies.

"We knew our daughter was destined to be a teacher at an early age," Richard and Karen said. "Debi was only 4 years old when she had her younger brother, Rick, sit at an antique school desk, where she would hold class standing in front of her chalk board."

Comments (9)

Julie Evans Jones Posted over a year ago

I was fortunate enough to have Mrs. Ward for Newspaper. To help us interview people, she asked the class to first interview HER. After many questions, we finally unveiled her secret- she was pregnant with her first child! She was such a sweet, warm, friendly, and knowledgeable teacher; she could always engage her class. -Julie (Evans) Jones Class of 1993

Shanna Hughes Posted over a year ago

Great teacher I learned a lot from her and she helped me with my homework that I need help she is the reason I am what I am today thank you

Marcy Pursell Posted over a year ago

If you had Ms. Ward for AP English senior year, you immediately knew she would make learning fun and interactive. Her classroom wasn't made up of the usual desks all facing the blackboard, but group tables. We made glasses counting down the days until graduation. I don't remember all the way she made things fun, but I remember feeling involved in class. She didn't talk at us, but had us read things aloud or discuss things in a group. I have remembered her name and attitude more than any other high school teacher. She left an impact on me and she will never be forgotten.

Kelli Kerrigan-Eshlemam Posted over a year ago

Wow it’s been almost 30 years since I sat in Mrs. Ward’s classroom but the lessons learned from her have stayed with me after all this time. Hands down she is the most dedicated teacher I have ever had. She truly cares for each and every student. She is passionate about teaching and determined to make her students not just better writers but also better people. I feel very fortunate to have been in Mrs. Ward’s classsroom.

Stormie Conn Posted over a year ago

What I love most about Ms.Ward is that her genuine love for her students always shines through. She pushes them out of their comfort zone and has them challenge themselves and she helps them every step of the way. Her positivity energy is always something I look forward to. Whether it’s her being upbeat and energetic in class or her sending messages over the remind app telling us to enjoy our weekends and get some rest. She cares about all of her students more than any teacher I’ve ever seen before and I consider myself lucky to be able to have her as a teacher.

Jane King Posted over a year ago

Debi Ward was my journalism teacher from 1987 to 1990. Even though high school seems like a lifetime ago, I still vividly remember how Mrs. Ward effortlessly created a safe and positive learning environment for all of her students. I not only remember the principles of layout and design, vocabulary terms such as kerning, gutter, and cropping as well as the ethics of journalism, but I also remember the feeling I had when I was in her classroom. I felt like my input mattered, I felt challenged, I felt supported, and I felt that she believed in me. My children also attend Burke High School and so far my oldest daughter and our former exchange student have both been students in her classroom; from what I can tell, Ms. Ward's passion and commitment to teaching have only grown stronger over the years. She pours unlimited time, energy, expertise, care, and encouragement into every student whether the student is in her AP English class and going on to an esteemed four year college, a 1st generation college student, or an athlete trying to make grades to continue competing. Mrs. Ward does not lower her expectations for students, instead she supports them while helping them to rise to new levels of skill that often times they did not believe they were capable of. In addition to furthering students knowledge, writing, and critical thinking skills she is able to help high school seniors keep a healthy perspective on life and enjoy their last months of high school in the midst of an ever increasingly stressful and high-pressure time of their lives. She helps students with time management skills, teaches them how to prioritize tasks, and she teaches them how to work and persevere. On top of all she does in the classroom, Mrs. Ward also coaches fellow teachers, tutors athletes after school, offers ACT prep sessions, is the sponsor of Senior Senate where she oversees homecoming, prom, and graduation Ms. Ward maintains countless connections with former students and even blogs with a former student who is now a teacher in the state of Texas (check out to read her entries.) Mrs. Ward was named the 2017 Nebraska High School English Teacher of the Year and has also previous been honored with the Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award. Given Ms. Ward's unwavering commitment to changing lives by supporting students from all backgrounds and life circumstances, I simply cannot think of a more deserving teacher, community member, or person to be honored as National Life Group LifeChanger of the Year.

Tiffani Sherman Posted over a year ago

Ms. Ward was my journalism adviser while I was in high school. I always had a love for writing and journalism and that is what I do for a living, more than 25 years later. She is a very encouraging person and when I was newspaper editor, she always helped me make decisions, she did not make them for me. I think this is a sign of a true life-changer, someone who helps to guide people to made decisions but does not do things for them. We reconnected later in life thanks to Facebook and she is still the same encouraging force to me today.

Samantha Brown Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Ward was one teacher who really cared about me. She was non judgmental and she got me through her class. She never gave up on me even though at the time I was struggling. I will never forget how much Mrs. Ward cared and how much time she put into helping me !!

Shawn Bonge Posted over a year ago

I’ve known Deb as a student and as the parent of a student. What I appreciate is that she has wonderful perspective about the demands on students and the need to balance all of it. She has high expectations for her students, but she balances that with kindness. She works with seniors and she understands the craziness of that year. She does an amazing job of helping them and their parents keep a good perspective and an eye on the big picture.