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Gratitude Letters: NBC Nightly News Spotlights Educator Lynn Dykhuizen Ovaska ’91

I am a veteran teacher in New Mexico who graduated from UW–Madison in 1991 with degrees in broad field social studies education and French. I have taught psychology and history in Los Alamos, NM, for almost 25 years, and even though I have received other honors as a teacher, I received the most special recognition recently: a feature on NBC Nightly News.

For the last 10 years, I have led my students through a lesson on authentic happiness and the power of gratitude. I have my students think about someone who has impacted their lives and write them a thoughtful gratitude letter and then give it to that person. It comes from Martin Seligman’s book on positive psychology, Authentic Happiness.

My lesson was described in a short, local press release last year along with all sorts of giving activities happening in our school district, and somehow NBC Nightly News saw it and contacted me. On November 15, NBC sent a producer and film crew to capture my students’s letter writing this year, and I was interviewed by Kate Snow the next day.

NBC turned it into a beautiful closing segment of their Sunday Nightly News on November 20. It’s at the end of the show in the “There’s Good News Tonight” segment.

Right before I left school for this winter break, NBC contacted me to let me know they loved the footage so much that they also created another segment for their NBC Nightly News: Kids Edition. It aired on December 17. It is longer than the November 20 segment, highlighting more kids and teachers. You can see it in the final segment at 20:00.

AND, the story was also chosen as one of the top “There’s Good News Tonight” stories of the year! It aired on December 18. You can watch it here at 12:40.

To learn more, you can read the articles from my small-town newspaper. They came the day of the filming and also interviewed me. There are two stories on me and the lesson:
1) About my lesson and NBC filming:
2) About the other broadcasts:

I mostly hope that sharing this story with you will inspire more people to write their own letters of gratitude! 🙂 Have a happy new year!

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