Kathleen Schieck, a fourth-grade teacher at Lenox Elementary School in Baldwin, routinely opened her email on April 26, and to her surprise, she discovered that she had been awarded $500.
Schieck won the award in the seventh annual Above and “Bee”yond Teacher Essay Contest” hosted by Applebee’s. Bryce Owens, one of her students, nominated her, submitting a half-page essay explaining why she deserved to be Applebee’s Teacher of the Year. One winner was chosen in both Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Schieck said she plans to use the money on her classroom next year.
“It’s such an amazing honor to be nominated by an amazing student,” she said. “For Applebee’s to recognize the teacher profession is really an awesome thing to do.”
In his essay, Bryce mentioned how being a student in Schieck’s class is a kid’s dream. With the fun games that he and his classmates play, participating in a glow party, and having an indoor snowball fight, Bryce wanted to highlight Schieck’s ability to make teaching enjoyable.
Bryce’s grandmother died this past September, and he mentioned in the essay how Schieck was able to be there for him while he was grieving her loss.
“This school year was very hard for me because my grandma died in September 2022,” Bryce said in the essay. “I felt really blue. I didn’t know what to do to feel better. My family helped me a lot, but I still felt depressed sometimes. That’s when Ms. Lewis, the school social worker, and Mrs. Schieck came in to save the day.”
Bryce mentioned that Schieck made him feel better by giving him breaks when he felt overwhelmed. When he was away from his parents, Schieck would give him a hug to make him feel better. He also said he wrote about his grandmother for a class project, which, according to Schieck, helped others open up, too.
“She didn’t have to do all these awesome things, but she cares enough to go above and ‘bee’yond’ to teach my class really important lessons you can’t learn from books,” Bryce wrote in his essay.
These lessons involved Bryce teaching the class, through his project, about empathy and how to remember loved ones who have passed away. He ended his essay saying that no one deserves to be the Applebee’s Teacher of the Year more than Schieck.
“It is the biggest honor to be recognized by a student,” Schieck said. “And knowing that I made a difference in his life when he needed me to be there for him is the reason I love this job.”
Schieck was at her computer checking her school email when she discovered the message saying, “Thank you for being a great teacher. You were nominated by your student Bryce Owens for Applebee’s Above and ‘Bee’yond.”
“So that’s how I found out and it was really shocking and really surprising,” Schieck said.
Brittany Sweeny, marketing manager of Doherty Enterprises-owned Applebee’s, emailed Schieck about her winning the contest. Schieck said that after reading Sweeny’s email and Bryce’s essay that was attached to it, she became “very teary eyed.”
She also said that she was “smiling,” and some of the things Bryce said made her laugh because his “sweet personality was shining through the essay.”
In winning the essay contest, Schieck received $500 for school supplies for next year. Schieck mentioned that she is planning to get flexible seating, different types of floor mats, tissues and “regular everyday supplies.”
Schieck also won a celebration at Applebee’s with her entire class.
“All the students are really excited about that,” Schieck said. “When I told them, they were all jumping and hugging each other and high-fiving each other.”
Schieck said the teacher across the hall, after hearing the commotion, asked her class if she had won the Lotto. Schieck replied by saying, “At that moment, we felt like we did.”