BHS special education teacher receives PSU College of Education's fall 2016 Distinguished Service Award

PITTSBURG - Nicolette Hastings, a special education teacher at Baxter Springs High School, said a second-grade teacher made a big difference in her life.

“It was the first time in my life that I felt valued,” Hastings said.

Hastings, the recipient of the Pittsburg State University College of Education’s fall 2016 Distinguished Service Award for teaching, spoke to students at PSU’s Student Teacher Recognition and Award Ceremony on Monday. Brandy Stanley, the school counselor at the Frontenac Junior High School and recipient of the Distinguished Service Award for administration, also spoke.

Hastings, who said her family moved frequently when she was a child and was at times homeless, said her experience allowed her to understand her students in a unique way.

“Most of my students are going through many of the same things that I went through as a child,” Hastings said. “As a special education teacher, it has been my privilege to be able to help many of my students.”

Stanley urged the graduating seniors to always think about the “what if’s” in life.

“If is the biggest word in the English language,” she said, “because it’s full of possibilities.”

Talking about her work as a school counselor, Stanley said it was like having a big family.

“I have four beautiful children,” Stanley said, “but I have 224 students I call ‘my kids.’”

Hastings has served in her current position for seven years. Prior to that, she worked as an elementary and special education teacher for the Erie (Kan.) School District. She has also worked with the ANW Special Education Cooperative and the SEK Ineterlocal #637.

Stanley is in her 17th year as an educator. She serves both her school and the community in a variety of roles, including as a member and former president of the Southeast Kansas Counseling Association, a member of the Greenbush Crisis Response Team, a member of the School Counseling Advisory Council at PSU and on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee.

Over the years, Stanley and her husband, Roger, have fostered several children and are licensed foster care providers.

In addition to hearing from the Distinguished Service Award recipients, the students also took the Teacher’s Oath and received a College of Education medallion to wear at commencement.

Jan Smith, interim dean of the College of Education, recognized Don Ward, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling, for his 40 years of service to the university and the college. Ward is retiring at the conclusion of the semester.