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Nebraska Educators Name 2020 Friend of Education | Rural Radio Network

Nebraska Educators Name 2020 Friend of Education

Nebraska Educators Name 2020 Friend of Education

Teachers Meet Virtually for Annual Delegate Assembly, Elect Leaders, Honor Community Service, Announce Contribution to Food Bank

April 26, 2020 — Nearly 300 teachers and other education professionals from across Nebraska met virtually this weekend to set the course for the next school year and to honor those who have gone above and beyond to support children and public education. The annual gathering was the NSEA’s 159th Delegate Assembly – and the first to be held by video conference.

NSEA President Jenni Benson announced the recipient of the Association’s highest honor, the 2020 Friend of Education Award, as Dr. Matt Blomstedt, Nebraska Commissioner of Education. Benson lauded Blomstedt’s goals of quality education and equity of opportunities and outcomes for all students in Nebraska.

“Nebraska is fortunate to have Matt guiding the education community during this pandemic,” said Benson.  “He exemplifies the strong work ethic, sense of fairness, respect for individuals and individual differences that Nebraskans are known for. His knowledge, collaborative approach and positive, can-do attitude have been key in leading continuous improvement in our schools these past six years. His calm, steady leadership has helped Nebraska schools navigate the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Nebraska teachers could not ask for a better champion for their most important work.”


To help address the growing need across Nebraska, Benson announced to delegates that the NSEA Children’s Fund will donate $25,000 to the Food Bank of the Heartland. Additionally, $10,000 will be donated by the NSEA-Retired, according to De Tonack, president of NSEA-Retired.

“Teachers across Nebraska are concerned about their students,” said Benson. “Many families rely on schools to provide their children with meals during the day and, for some, food backpacks to get them through the weekends. The pandemic has led to a significant increase in demand for food from the Food Bank of the Heartland, meanwhile donations have slowed. The NSEA Children’s Fund and NSEA-Retired are pleased they are able to help during this challenging time.”

Benson thanked local education associations, individuals and businesses throughout Nebraska that have donated to the NSEA Children’s Fund, a 501c3, which provides funding and support for students in need. Benson highlighted the Omaha Education Association and District OR-1 (Palmyra/Bennet) Education Association for leading the way with their contributions to the Children’s Fund over the last year.



Delegates elected Lincoln Public Schools teacher Jenni Benson to a second 3-year term as president of the NSEA. Omaha Public Schools teacher and president of the Omaha Education Association Robert Miller was elected NSEA vice president, and LPS teacher Linda Freye was reelected as one of two Nebraska representatives to the National Education Association Board of Directors.


Champion of Education Award: Cartoonist Paul Fell is a Massachusetts native who came to Peru State to play football and study art and his cartoons are now familiar to nearly every Nebraskan. Though Fell has teased and skewered politicians on both sides of the aisle and on both sides of every issue he has remained steadfast in his support of one institution: public education. His cartoons have appeared in every Nebraska newspaper and have made Nebraskans laugh and think for the past 40 years.


Teaching Excellence Award: Jen Yoder, Lincoln Education Association, is described by a colleague as a “driven individual who develops strong relationships with both students and colleagues.” Self-reflective and a strong advocate for student learning, Yoder teaches special education for the Lincoln Public Schools. Yoder is active in the Lincoln Education Association and NSEA, in the prison ministry at her church, in promoting and seeking social justice. With LPS for 28 years, she teaches at Irving Middle School in Lincoln.

Rookie of the Year: Dawn Tedmon, Palmer Education Association, is a preschool-3 teacher. The para-educator Tedmon works with said “everything she does is all for the best interest of her students. She makes a point to acknowledge every child and makes sure they all feel loved and important.”

Education Support Professional of the Year: Judy Bennett, Palmer Education Association, began her work in education as a bus driver. She now drives a route each morning and afternoon and has become the school district’s ‘go-to’ driver for activities. She has since stepped up to keep statistics for both varsity volleyball and basketball games. She is also a paraeducator in the special education department for her school.



Community Service AwardMindy Diller, Lincoln Education Association. Forget birthday cake and gifts for LEA member Mindy Diller – for the past three years she has asked friends to donate needed items for others. In 2017, she collected new underclothes for women in need who visited The Gathering Place, a food kitchen in Lincoln. In 2018, after The Gathering Place asked for lip balm, Diller collected more than 1,200 lip balms, with the makers of Burt’s Bees adding another 1,000. In the fall of 2018, her ‘Gal Pal Wonder Woman Drive’ brought in hundreds of hair products, soaps, lotions, perfumes and more. Her 40th birthday in fall of 2019 provided a drive for feminine hygiene products, with a goal of 4,000 items – and more than 19,000 tampons and pads were donated. Along with her Lux Middle School students, she has since collected nearly 300 blankets, and currently is collecting deodorant products for The Gathering Place.

Great Plains Milestone Award: Inclusive Communities is an 80+year-old Omaha area organization founded by leaders from different faiths who refused to be bystanders in the face of hatred, intolerance, bigotry and fear. The organization provides education and advocacy with a sharp focus on diversity and inclusion as it works with schools, businesses and the Omaha-area community. Maggie Wood is the executive director.


NSEA’s Metro District was honored with the William Gallagher Jr. Award, which recognizes the governance district that enrolls the largest percentage of eligible members within that district

This was the 159th Delegate Assembly in the Association’s 153-year history. NSEA was founded in October 1867 in Brownville.

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