Staff Spotlight: Tommy Bender-English and Speech Teacher at Lincoln Southeast High School

Every week, we’ll shine a spotlight on one Lincoln Public Schools staff member! Get to know the wonderful people making a positive impact across various areas within LPS. This week, meet Tommy Bender, English and speech teacher at Lincoln Southeast High School.

“We love coaching and working with Tommy. He has been an excellent mentor to us, modeling exactly what a coach and teacher should bepassionate, dedicated and thoughtful. He spends extensive hours in and outside of school working to help students be successfulas evident by his countless Google Sheets. He is passionate about helping students believe in themselves, whether it’s in an introductory speech class or competing for the first time at nationals. But his biggest impact is teaching students to be well-rounded, kind human beings. We know firsthand how difficult this job can be, but Tommy reminds us why we do it. Thank you so much, Tommy, for being a great role model and friend.”  - Katie Frankforter and Madison Hilbert, Southeast High School English teaching colleagues and speech coaches.

How long have you worked for LPS?
This is my 22nd year at LPS and 30th year overall.

What inspired you to become part of the education field at LPS?
I've always seen LPS as the standard for education in Nebraska, and through coaching speech, I already knew a number of people who worked at LPS in various high schools. As a young teacher with a growing family with strong ties to Lincoln in 2002, I was thrilled with the opportunity to teach and coach at Lincoln Southeast.

What has been your favorite part of working here? What aspect of your job do you find most rewarding?
There are so many great things about teaching and coaching at Lincoln Southeast. I have great colleagues both at LSE and across LPS, which makes me feel like part of a team. I have had the opportunity to teach and coach so many wonderful students! I think the most rewarding aspect is being a part of watching someone gain the ability and confidence to do something new today that maybe they wouldn't have been able to do in the past. Those lightbulb moments happen on so many levels, from being able to give a speech in class to achieving a hard-earned goal on the speech team.

Did you attend LPS as a student? If so, which school(s)? If not, where are you from?
I grew up and graduated in Crete, where I also started my teaching career.

What path did you take after completing your formal education?
After high school graduation at Crete, I joined the Navy Reserves and was trained as a mechanic in the Seabees. Then, I attended UNL, where I earned a teaching degree in English/Speech/Theatre. My master’s degree is from Doane College, and I also have a Certificate in Educational Technology from Northwest Missouri State.

What do you enjoy most about the Lincoln community?
I've always thought of Lincoln as a great-size community to live in as it's big enough to have a wide variety of experiences and things to do but small enough to still have a small-town feel.

What is your favorite childhood book or a book that has influenced you positively?
One of my favorite books has always been “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This book has meant different things to me at different times of my life; from learning empathy and learning to considering life from a different perspective, to understanding what loyalty and integrity is, to being a patient parent—it covers a lot of ground.

Share a shout out to a former teacher who impacted your life.
Mary Georgi was my high school speech coach, and was an amazing teacher and coach! She was patient and creative and was one of several great mentors I've had in my career. Here's hoping she sees this! Thanks Mary!

Do you know a LPS staff member we should feature for Staff Spotlight? Fill out this form to nominate them!

Published: November 10, 2023, Updated: January 10, 2024

Tommy Bender—English and Speech Teacher at Lincoln Southeast High School