Delaware

Richard Hurt

Position: JROTC Instructor

School: Cape Henlopen High School

School District: Cape Henlopen School District

City, State: Lewes, Delaware

About the Nominee: Any educator worth their weight in salt is an on-going LifeChanger. Sergeant Richard Hurt is the perfect example of on-going LifeChanger. Based on the sheer number of lives he has changed for the better and the degree to which he changed them, he is worth his weight in gold. Sergeant Hurt is a JROTC instructor for 9th graders. In this capacity, he has been, and continues to be, a positive influence on hundreds of young men and women. When these 9th graders move on to higher grades, they still seek out “Sarge” as a mentor, confidant and life advisor. His relationship with most of these students continues into adulthood, where “Sarge” is still checking in on them and pushing them to be better.

Sergeant Hurt has a larger than life personality, and all of his students respond to his guidance and positive, "anything is possible" attitude. He is the coach and advisor for a variety of after school activities such as Drill Team, Raider Team, Color Guard and an Academic/ Leadership Challenge Team. All of these teams are regularly awarded for their excellence or winning major competitions. Sergeant Hurt spends countless hours after school working with these students to pursue excellence. At the same time, he mentors them to help improve their self-image and beliefs about their prospects for the future. His students perform a tremendous amount of community service, and on every occasion, Sarge is always the first one there, modeling his positive, highly contagious attitude. His students were recently awarded a National Jefferson Award for community service for the 5th year in a row.

Sergeant Hurt definitely has an impact on all students who come into contact with him, but there are certain stories in particular that make him a LifeChanger.

One student came back to Cape Henlopen High School from juvenile detention, and Sarge immediately took that student under his wing. The student believed his life was ruined and could find no hope for the future. Sarge mentored him and worked with him for four years, and upon graduation, the student was accepted into the Army, where he continues to gain rank and flourish. Other students have thought that their only life path was to join the military, but Sarge guided them down a path that led to college, where they are now extremely successful. Sarge also works with his school's AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, and last year, he insisted that a student apply for a scholarship sponsored by Dell. This student dragged her feet, but Sergeant Hurt kept insisting that she was good enough and convinced her to complete the application. Unsurprisingly, she won a $20,000 scholarship from Dell to attend college, where she is now working on a degree in international affairs. Additionally, Sarge has purchased more food and clothes for students than can be calculated, as well as a handsome suit for a student who was trying to attend prom.

The bottom line is that Sergeant Richard Hurt has been, and continues to be, the epitome of a LifeChanger. There are so many students who come back to visit him, share their successes and show off their families to him. He changes the lives of everyone he comes into contact with, and the students are proud to come back and let him know and thank him. Sarge changes lives for the better with his positive attitude and his focus on what can be done, rather than what can’t be done. A one-page nomination does not do him justice, according to his nominator, but his students can tell the whole story.

[nominee_videos nominee_email="richard.hurt@cape.k12.de.us"]

Michael Kempski

Position: Sixth Grade Social Studies Teacher School: Shue-Medill Middle School

School District: Christina School District

City, State: Newark, Delaware

About the Nominee: Mike Kempski is a personal and professional hero, particularly to his nominator. Without his leadership and influence over the past 15 years, his nominator would not be where they are today with their own teaching and union work.

A few months ago, Mr. Kempski's nominator and colleague was introduced to a woman whose child attends Shue-Medill Middle School and has Mr. Kempski as a Social Studies teacher. Once Mr. Kempski's nominator and the parent made the connection, the parent raved about Mr. Kempski as a teacher, a partner in her child's education and a leader in the community. She said that Mr. Kempski was a consistent, engaged communicator and described times where her child, who has special educational needs, received extra support from him. Mr. Kempski made the parent aware of a community group that had recently formed to support the district and suggested she reach out to the group members for parent contacts and assistance. His students gain a lot from his unwavering attention to detail, and he demonstrates his knowledge of his content with references to historical topics and events in speeches to colleagues.

Mr. Kempski is outstanding in the classroom, but he also uses his positions of influence to affect change in social justice arenas that directly impact his school, district, community, and state. He creates connections between community groups and the school district that have resulted in some genuine, lasting partnerships. For instance, through the work Mr. Kempski and his nominator have done with the ACLU and their Coalition for Fairness and Equity in Schools, Christina School District is starting a pilot program for restorative practices in three of their schools, one of which is Mr. Kempski's own. He has been an integral part of the work of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, an umbrella organization that governs a sprawling group of committees tasked by the State of Delaware's General Assembly with creating recommendations for improving education in the city of Wilmington, but with implications for the rest of the state. This would, in part, create a more unified school system for the 10,000+ students in the city, many of whom are minorities living in high poverty situations.

For the past two years, Mr. Kempski has served as the President of the Christina Education Association, the local union serving educational professionals in the Christina School District. For two years prior to that, he served as Vice-President of the organization, and for a number of years prior to that, he was the Political Action Coordinator. It is through this sphere that Mr. Kempski's nominator first became aware of and inspired by him.

His demeanor is consistently professional, calm, collected and confident, and his dedication to helping educational professionals maximize their capability to serve students is unparalleled. He sees the path to educational greatness as being paved through improvement of the student experience. Mr. Kempski recognizes leadership in many who don't see it in themselves, and he makes personal connections that strengthen the collegiality of educators and help keep students in the forefront of the educational process.

For these reasons, and so many others, Mr. Kempski is a true LifeChanger. He has always shown himself to be a true leader who does everything for the best reasons.