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Lincoln Elementary’s Schultz named Nebraska School Social Worker of the Year

May 22nd, 2024

Kristin Schultz wears many hats as a social worker at Lincoln Elementary.

Confidant, substitute teacher, fire alarm handler, door greeter. But the most important of all? Difference maker.

Schultz, who has been with Grand Island Public Schools for 18 years and at Lincoln for 17, welcomes any challenge that comes her way when it comes to taking care of students, families, and staff. It’s an admirable attribute – one of many reasons she was named the 2024 Nebraska School Social Worker of the Year from the School Social Work Association of Nebraska (SSWAN).

Lincoln Elementary students and staff joined SSWAN representatives, GIPS administrators and social workers, and Schultz’s family to surprise her with the honor on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

Mrs. Schultz is hugged by students after winning her award.

As someone who shies from the spotlight, Schultz was shocked and humbled by the announcement.

“I had no idea,” she said. “I don’t feel like I honestly do anything different than anybody else does. I’m just here to help everybody, and I just do my job.”

She was met with many hugs and congratulations, including a personalized “G.O.A.T.” trophy, as Shultz is considered the greatest of all time and adored by many at the school.

Breanna McDonald, Lincoln Elementary Principal, said the two words “difference maker” encompass everything Schultz does for the Lincoln students, families and staff.

“Shultz has worked to create an environment where parents feel safe to ask for help, and then finds a way to support them with whatever they may need,” McDonald said. “For her, her work is not just confined to what she can do within the school walls, but what she can do to strengthen our community.” 

Mrs. Schultz is surprised by her award.

No day is the same for Schultz, and she loves everything about it. The one constant is starting her day greeting every student at the door in the morning, which she says helps her form better relationships with students and families.

“I liked the idea of helping students and families, but not being in a classroom,” Schultz said of why she went into school social work. “When this position came open 18 years ago, it was just a great opportunity to help in the school system.”

Children need their basic needs met before they can begin to learn, and that’s part of Schultz’s everyday mission. She said sometimes, students can’t learn because they have so many other things going on in their lives, whether it be trauma or other needs. Schultz added that sometimes teachers also have a hard time teaching because of things going on in their lives, too. Everybody needs a little support.

“I just like making everybody’s lives easier,” Schultz stated.

Mrs. Schultz was named the Nebraska School Social Worker of the Year.

Throughout her years, Schultz has witnessed the trajectory of students' lives improve. She has helped families gain independence from abusive situations, connected families to needed community resources, and even connected students with positive role models.

McDonald said Schultz has collaboratively worked with local and state support systems to ensure no matter where Lincoln students, families, and staff might be, they always feel like the school has their back.

“Schultz gets to school bright and early to greet each and every child and parent that comes through our door, and stays after hours to ensure they all get back home safely,” McDonald stated.

“Social Worker is not just her job title, it is her calling.”

Lincoln Elementary and Grand Island Public Schools is grateful to have Kristin Schultz supporting our students. Congratulations to Mrs. Schultz on being named the 2024 Nebraska School Social Worker of the Year!