2022 Catholic School Rural Secondary Educator of the Year

Erika Winkelbauer, science teacher – St. Mary’s High School, O’Neill

Science, by its very nature, is exciting, experimental, and experiential. But Erika Winkelbauer, an educator at St. Mary’s High School in O’Neill, takes it up a notch – and then some.

“Mrs. Winkelbauer brings science to life for her students in all her science classes from 7th grade through 12th grade. She teaches physics, anatomy and physiology, chemistry I and II, biology and STEM with enthusiasm and creativity. Students are pushed to step outside their comfort zones and learn through individual, group, hands-on, and demonstrative lessons and projects.
Because of her example and willingness to push her students, two of my children have pursued a STEM field for their college education, as have many of her former students, said  St. Mary’s parent and school board member, Dave Pongratz.
“She inspires students to do their absolute best. I am thankful every day that we have such a dedicated and inspiring teacher, Students know that she cares about them, and that she is willing to help them learn in any way she can. She incorporates many hand-on activities and games to help keep the material interesting. She has very high expectations of all of her students, and they rise to those expectations.” said Paula Atkeson, teacher facilitator at the school.

Erika has taught at St. Mary’s for seven years. Her previous teaching experience was at Papillion-LaVista High School before she opted to stay home with her children, Grant, Emma, Lauren, and Walker. She grew up in Wisner, attending Wisner-Pilger High School where her mother taught German.

Erika earned her BS in secondary science education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating with Highest Distinction. When she is not creating dynamic lesson plans, coaching track, or moderating Quiz Bowl, she can be found with her nose tucked in a book, enjoying the great outdoors, or traveling and spending as much time with her family as she can.


Mrs. Winkelbauer is part of a larger group of eight educators the Archdiocese of Omaha honors each year. The annual event helps us recognize and reward the impact of our local educators, celebrate Catholic education and raise important scholarship dollars for tuition assistance that helps make tuition accessible and affordable for many more families across our community.

Please join us in person for this year’s Archbishop’s Dinner for Education on September 22.