Q & A with Nuernberger Principal Jaime Boedeker

The following interview with Jaime Boedeker, principal at Nuernberger Education Center, has been edited and condensed. You can listen to the full interview on the latest LPS podcast, Stories from Lincoln Public Schools.

LPS Communications: So first, for people who don't know, and I think there are a lot in this community, what is the Nuernberger Education Center?

Boedeker: The Nuernberger Education Center serves a couple of main purposes. We basically have two programs that run out of this building. I am the principal of the building but there is a coordinator that runs the program that's on the northern third of the building. The Student Support Program is run through the (LPS) Student Services Department. That program works with students that have been long-term suspended or expelled, sometimes in a transitional phase, middle school and high school students. 

The southern two-thirds of the building is what is actually called the Nuernberger Education Center, a program that's run through special education. And it's exclusively at middle school, grades six through eight. Students that attend here do so through a special education process. The vast majority of students that attend here, if not all of them right now, are verified in special education. And most of them, if not all of them, have significant behavioral needs that we work with. And there are some students within that that we work with that also have academic needs that we work concurrently with - with their behaviors and their academics to help them be successful.

LPS Communications: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up here at Nuernberger.

Boedeker: I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. When I graduated from college I did various things but wasn't really focused through my early- to mid-20s...I tried various jobs. I thought for a while I was working on my Ph.D. in history. I was going to be a history professor - and I played music.

LPS Communications: What kind of music did you play?

Boedeker: Well, Kansas City, you can't can't get too far away from jazz, jazz and blues, some rock, but it just depended upon the circumstance. I played a few different instruments.

About the time I was 26 I met the woman that became my wife and she helped me - she'd made I think a reasonable determination that perhaps I was lacking focus and and as a result I started about getting into education. My mom just retired last year as a teacher. On both sides of the family, there are teachers. I've had a couple of uncles and aunts that were superintendents of schools in Missouri. And so I kind of thought that perhaps there was something in the blood with regards to that. I didn't want to be a, you know, mainstream teacher, I wanted to work with students that had struggles because growing up I had a pretty idyllic childhood.

LPS Communications: What do you find most rewarding about this job? What gets you out the door in the morning? 

Boedeker: I mean, ultimately, it's all about the kids. If you're in education and it's not about the kids, perhaps education shouldn't be your thing. It's really all about the kids and I wholeheartedly believe in the altruism of the job, regardless if you work in the kitchen, you're a custodian, you're a teacher or a parent or whatever. It's all about the kids. It's not about staff necessarily. It's about what we can do to help students be successful and in our world, it's even a bigger task because most of our students have not been successful at school for a long time - maybe perhaps a good extent of their schooling. And it's our job to pull them back in to help them be a student - to stabilize what we can stabilize and and then to help them be a student. 

And then there's also another tier to that because a lot of times students that have struggled at school for a number of years, a lot of times have families or parents or guardians or whatnot that perhaps don't hold a lot of affinity for school or the importance of schooling. And and for reasons that can be very understandable based on any number of circumstances. So our goal is not only to work with those students to help with that, but then also to work with families to help get them tapped in to education because education works best when home and school are able to have reasonable conversations about what's in the best interests of the kid. And it takes a lot of work sometimes to do that. But ultimately, we've experienced a fairly high rate of success with regards to that. It's basically trying to get them to be better people, better students trying to help them be productive members of our society as they get older.

LPS Communications: What do you think some misconceptions are that some people may have about the students who come to Nuernberger?

Boedeker: That they're all bad kids. And what that comes back to is, the students here made some poor choices. And generally the students that come here, they haven't made one poor choice. They've made a series of poor choices that have, you know, that have compromised the education at their respective home schools...our job is to figure out why that is. Is it a home situation? Is it truly a mental health circumstance? And all these things can overlap. We have three psychotherapists who work on staff here, a very good health tech and a very good nurse. We have top-notch people working in the building.

There's a reason why students act the way they do. And the sooner that we can figure that out, and start to work with students on that, in an environment that's very structured, the quicker the turnaround is and then it's amazing once students start to see success...It's amazing.

Published: February 11, 2020, Updated: February 17, 2020

"Ultimately, it's all about the kids. If you're in education and it's not about the kids, perhaps education shouldn't be your thing. It's really all about the kids and I wholeheartedly believe in the altruism of the job, regardless if you work in the kitchen, you're a custodian, you're a teacher or a parent or whatever."