One Class at at Time: Laura Bush Middle School teacher Todd Hemelstrand

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 11:39 AM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A new school year is underway, which means mor exemplary teachers are being rewarded with $500.

In this year’s first edition of One Class at a Time, one Laura Bush Middle School teacher stands out from the rest.

‘You never know where the kids are coming from each and every day. If a kid doesn’t feel safe and secure, they haven’t slept and they haven’t eaten, then they’re not going to learn anything. So my classroom is very much a place to be. Just to be ‘okay’. And then we can learn from there.”

That’s the philosophy of 6th grade world geography teacher Todd Hemelstrand. He’s been teaching for 12 years and his students can’t wait to get to his class. After talking to some of his kids, it wasn’t hard to figure out why.

“I try and make my class a very healthy and safe environment for kids to come in and just express how they’re feeling and there’s no judgement here,” he said.

Mr. Hemelstrand admits he has a heart for kids who are considered “bubble students, or students who are struggling to achieve. And while he gives attention and effort to everyone in his class, his real focus in on kids with extra needs.

“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said. “I have learned that foundationally every year, when new kids come in I want to know who they are, where they are and where they’re coming from. As soon as you create that relationship with a kid early on and the family, it pays dividends throughout the year and throughout your career.”

As it turns out, Mr. Hemelstrand just has a heart for people in general, which led him to choose the non-profit, Grace Campus, a transitional shelter here in Lubbock, to receive a matching $500 grant.

“The people that come through out gates have pretty much hit a hiccup in life, could happen to any of us,” Grace Campus Program Director Jerriann Moore said. “Whether it’s job loss, couldn’t pay their bills, or they just need a place where they’re safe, they have the basic necessities to get on their feet and move back into independent living.”

Moore and her husband Chris, the executive director of Grace Campus, can serve up to 118 residents at a time. Currently, they have around 65 staying in the shelter and just keeping the lights on and the A/C during summer months can be a struggle for the non-profit. However, it’s one they signed up for.

“We’ll take care of the day-to-day living so they can focus on that big thing that has them where they are,” Moore said.

There are several ways you can donate to Grace Campus. Either by mail, drop-off or through their website.

And you can nominate your favorite teacher for this year’s One Class at a Time grant at