5 Reasons to Love Nebraska's Public Schools

5 Reasons to Love Nebraska's Public Schools

By Tyler Dahlgren

1: Nebraska’s Public Schools leave no child behind

There’s a resounding commitment to accommodation in our state’s public schools. Each school seems to have adopted a motto declaring a commitment to educating and connecting with EVERY student that walks its hallways. There’s barriers, to be sure, but show me a challenge and I’ll show you a state filled with teachers and administrators prepared to conquer it. And I’ve only been doing this since October. Here’s a few of my favorite examples, though keep in mind the list could go on and on.

*Don’t give up on a student. No matter what. The wonderful folks at Valley Alternative Learning Transition School in Scottsbluff (ESU 13) practice what they’ve preached for the last 20 years.

“Even just the smile of one of our students can change your day,” said LifeLink director Pam Brezenski. “To significantly change the course of their lives, that touches our lives.” Read more!

*There’s an educational utopia of a place in Fremont that is sure to ignite the senses. Think of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (you know, the scene where Augusta falls into that chocolate river and gets sucked up that tube), without the candy but equally alluring. Designed for the visually impaired, the “Sensory Courtyard” is a place of learning through adventure, for those of all ages and abilities. That’s what Nebraska’s public schools are all about. Read more!

*Every Student. Every Day. It’s plastered all over the place in York Public Schools, and not just for show. As one of three installments in NPSA’s “Cultivating Culture” series, I spent a day in York’s schools, talking with teachers, principals, students and paras. Great leadership, great people, great schools.

“Provide more opportunities for our kids, that’s behind everything we do,” said superintendent Mike Lucas. “Don’t leave any stone unturned. Relentless would be the word I would use to describe us.” Read more!


2: Nebraska’s Public Schools provide students with unique learning opportunities

Unique? Yes. Sometimes smelly? You bet. Either way, it’s impossible not to notice the out-of-the-box experiences teachers are bringing straight to the classrooms. Gone are the days of listless Powerpoint presentations and slowly rolling out a television set straight out of 1987 for a viewing of a scratchy VHS (though, let’s admit it, we all got excited to watch a little TV in class).

*Take a look at this state-of-the-art greenhouse and aquarium in Blair! Read more!

*If it sounds like there’s a horse trotting through the library at Laurel-Concord-Coleridge….well, that’s because there probably is. Meet Pippin the Therapy Pony, a rock star in this northeast, NE community! Read more!

*Our most read story of the school year came from Cross County, where Rosie was the coolest, and most pregnant, cow in school! Read more!

*North Bend fourth-graders were visited by Rudy, a nine-year-old cannulated steer, and the UNL Mobile Beef Lab in April. Feeling around Rudy’s four stomachs, armed with a big yellow rubber glove, produced a wide variety of reactions. They were all funny. Read more!


3: Nebraska’s Public Schools are the cornerstones of their communities

Schools play a multi-faceted role in small communities, and anyone that grew up in a small town can attest to that. Take the school out of a town, and watch the town wither away. That sounds dramatic, but, sadly, there is plenty of examples. Nebraska’s communities are proud of their schools, and Nebraska’s schools are proud of their communities. It’s a crucial bond, and it’s one of the reasons our public schools are so special.

*Fullerton is a town of about 1,000 people located 40 miles northeast of Grand Island. A Blue Ribbon Award winner in 2016, Fullerton’s schools are just flat out strong.

“In a small town, the public school is the center and the lifeline to everything,” Superintendent Jeff Andserson said. “It always has been the lifeline of small towns, and I hope it always is.” Read more!

*Conestoga Elementary showed courage in the face of an unthinkable tragedy.

“You always let the kids hug you, but now those hugs mean a little bit more and you let them hold on a little bit longer.” Read more!

*Ashland-Greenwood’s commitment to building a strong, positive culture is no light matter.

“Their whole thing is about shining light on the positives, instead of cursing the darkness,” principal Brad Jacobsen said. “Don’t spend your time looking at what has already happened or too late to fix. Let’s think about what we can do, not what we shouldn’t.” Read more!


4: Nebraska’s Public Schools give back

The state is filled with incredible teachers and students, and they have big hearts. We saw it time after time. Whether it be a student-ran food drive, or a teacher-funded pantry, schools in Nebraska give back to their communities, and look out for their own.

*At Hastings High School, the power of giving became contagious, and the proof was in the pantry. Open near the end of every Friday, there was 25-30 students that had access as of fall of last year.

“The kids were super excited to trick-or-treat, and even more excited to bring that food right back into the school and put it on these shelfs,” said drama teacher and organizer Katie Funkey. “That warmed my heart, and was really great to see.” Read more!

*On Veteran’s Day, schools throughout the state held ceremonies to show appreciation for those who have served. Like at Thayer Central, where a 70-minute program to say thanks is a true K-12 endeavor. Read more!

*At Huntington Elementary in Lincoln, teachers and administrators got into the holiday spirit in a charitable way. Holiday Headquarters, as it’s called, provides toys to those in need. On a cold, winter night, the line to enter wrapped around the corridor.

“Children are children everywhere,” teacher Krista Couton said. “They deserve to be safe and loved, but they also deserve to be challenged and inspired. Our teachers and staff work relentlessly to make sure school is truly a place for every child, no matter where they’re coming from outside the building.” Read more!


5: Nebraska’s public school teachers are simply the best

Okay, this one is more of an opinion, but it’s one I formed through a year full of firsthand interactions with the educators of Nebraska’s public schools. They think outside of the box. They care about each and every student. They constantly work to improve. And they never stop learning.

*Professional Development is a priority in ESU 4. Read more!

*Clark Kolterman’s story is one of man and community, and it started over 100 years ago. Meet Mr. Seward. Read more!

*Scott Harrington is a government teacher from Norris committed to giving his students real-world experience with trips to the State Capitol, debates and polling stations. Read more!