2018 Teachers of the Year

Elkhart Community Schools is proud to be home to so many amazing teachers. We recognize that the success of our students is built upon the hard work and dedication of our teachers, who ignite a passion for learning and inspire our students to learn every day. In this recognition, each of Elkhart Community Schools’ 21 locations nominates a building Teacher of the Year, whose hard work and success is celebrated throughout the year within the building. As a district, ECS then selects two teachers as our district Teachers of the Year (one for primary and one for secondary), who are then submitted to the state for consideration for Indiana Teacher of the Year.

Congratulations to Hillary Harder, who received Elkhart Community Schools’ Elementary Teacher of the Year Award. Ms. Harder is a Music Teacher at Roosevelt Steam Academy.

Ms. Harder grew up in Wichita, Kansas and moved to Indiana to attend Goshen College. After spending a year in Los Angeles completing her Master’s degree, she returned to Elkhart County to teach at Roosevelt.

Growing up, Ms. Harder attended a dual language school where she was a part of a Spanish language immersion program. This background in Spanish inspired her to continue studying the language and choose Spanish as one of her majors in college. Study-abroad opportunities led her to Paraguay, Nicaragua, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Her background in Spanish helps her connect with Spanish-speaking students and families at Roosevelt.

She realized she wanted to teach when she heard the motto of the El Sistema program (a program in place at Roosevelt): music for social change. She became a teacher to use music education as a vehicle to build relationships, create positive culture, and foster confidence and citizenship within a musical ensemble.

Ms. Harder’s favorite moments as a teacher are the long-awaited, often surprising, breakthroughs with students who are difficult to reach. She finds that music has a way of cracking even the toughest of shells and says there’s nothing better than seeing students who may struggle elsewhere come into their own as part of a music ensemble. She says she is grateful to be a teacher when musical experiences help build students up, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Outside of work, Ms. Harder plays several musical instruments, including the violin, mandolin, piano, and organ, even having played in a family bluegrass band with her parents and sisters. She also enjoys biking, swimming, hiking, and going for walks with friends.


Congratulations to Kathy Nusbaum, who received Elkhart Community Schools’ Secondary Teacher of the Year Award. Kathy is a Social Studies teacher at Elkhart Central High School.

Kathy grew up in a bilingual home and never felt like she was an academic equal to her peers due to her language barriers. In fourth grade, she had a teacher who looked past her “labels” and treated her like the smartest kid in the class. This relationship built confidence within Kathy and inspired her to become a teacher so she could pass this confidence-building on to students.

Throughout her career, one of the most touching moments happened while she was teaching 7th grade at West Side Middle School. As a service project, her class did fundraising to help people in Africa get access to fresh water. One of her students donated a 100 dollar bill. Kathy double-checked with the student’s mom, who confirmed that her son really wanted to donate his 100 dollar bill to the cause. Later in the year, this student’s mom became sick. Kathy’s class ended their year with an economics fair, where they raised nearly $1,000 in two hours through carnival games. The class decided to donate the fair proceeds to the student’s family for medical bills. The mother was so grateful for the generosity of the students. The mother later passed away from cancer. Kathy was so proud of her students for donating their money to a classmate’s family and has carried the lesson of teaching her students to be considerate of others because you never know what the person beside you is going through.

Both inside and outside of the classroom, Kathy is passionate about helping others. This year, Kathy learned how to knit, because she wanted to teacher her students how to make blankets for babies in the hospital. She is also a member of the Elkhart Education Foundation, through which she strives to bring the community and Elkhart Community Schools together. She is passion about education and will do anything to help her students, including lip sync contests, kissing a pig, kissing a llama, and dressing up as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Outside of work, Kathy loves to travel and experience new things.

2017 Primary / Elementary School Nominees

Amy Mathews
Beardsley Elementary School

Shaun McAllister
Mary Beck Elementary School

Stephanie Marks
Bristol Elementary School

Robin Todorovich
Cleveland Elementary School

Kristen Becraft
Mary Daly Elementary School

Jamie Krempec
Eastwood Elementary School

Judy Oberlie
Mary Feeser Elementary School

Katrina Foree
Hawthorne Elementary School

Nina Swartzlander
Monger Elementary School

Adriana Burton
Osolo Elementary School

Janice Fuller
Pinewood Elementary School

Jennifer wagtowicz
Riverview Elementary School

Hillary Harder
Roosevelt STEAM Academy

Britny Jimenez
Woodland Elementary School


2018 Secondary / Middle & High School Nominees

Laura Unsicker
North Side Middle School

Kyle Miller
Pierre Moran Middle School

Grant Choler
West Side Middle School

Kathy Nusbaum
Elkhart Central High School

Heather Walker
Elkhart Memorial High School

Barbara Gingerich
Elkhart Area Career Center

Kristin Dutton
Elkhart Academy