Lance Ferguson uses retirement to help LPS students soar through substitute teaching
Lance Ferguson spent nearly a decade working with avionics equipment on F-16 airplanes for the U.S. Air Force.
He is now helping Lincoln Public Schools students fly into successful learning skies as a local substitute teacher.
Ferguson began serving as a substitute at LPS in the Spring 2021 semester and has been in eight elementary schools this year. He is currently filling a long-term subbing assignment in the library at West Lincoln Elementary School. He has appreciated being able to help students in his role there.
“I really enjoy working with young people and seeing their aha moments,” Ferguson said. “You see when it all comes together for them and they’re learning and growing. It’s really amazing.”
Jenny Fundus said Ferguson was a good person to feature on Substitute Educators Day, which is taking place this year on Nov. 17. The day’s goal is to bring attention to the important contributions substitutes make in school districts.
Fundus supervises hiring for special programs and substitutes in the LPS Department of Human Resources. She said Ferguson and other substitutes are respected and valued for their willingness to help district students.
“Our substitute teachers are amazing,” Fundus said. “They provide consistent learning and routines for students.”
Ferguson served in the U.S. Air Force from 1982-88 as an avionics technician for radar, navigation, flight control and communications equipment on F-16 airplanes. He spent the next two years as a F-16 avionics instructor for the Air Force before working as a network engineer in the corporate world.
Ferguson traded his information technology career for a calling as a full-time pastor in 2006. He helped people at Spirit of Hope Lutheran Church in Lincoln until retiring from the ministry in May 2023.
The Lexington, Neb., native became aware of the need for substitute teachers after talking to two of his daughters who teach special education. One of his five daughters helps students at Omaha Westside, and a second is involved in special education at a school in West Virginia. The common thread was that both places were facing a shortage of substitutes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ferguson began the process of becoming a local substitute teacher in the fall of 2020 and started working for LPS the next spring. He was initially able to be in LPS classrooms only on Fridays due to his work, but his retirement freed up additional time for him.
Students at Arnold, Belmont, Norwood Park, Robinson, Roper, West Lincoln and Zeman elementary schools have met Ferguson in their libraries, and he also subbed as a first-grade teacher and reading intervention leader at McPhee Elementary. West Lincoln invited him to become a long-term substitute in the media center in early November.
Ferguson said one of the classroom aha moments came during his first week at West Lincoln. Students use a card-catalog program called Destiny Discover to locate where books are shelved in the library. One third-grade student was determined to locate a certain book, and Ferguson gave him initial directions for Destiny Discover. The student navigated the program independently and beamed with pride when discovering his new book.
“Helping them be comfortable with finding their own books is a lot of fun,” Ferguson said. “It was really neat to see.”
Fundus said LPS hires substitute teachers like Ferguson throughout the school year. The district provides substitutes with a LPS Chromebook to use at their job sites, and each employee receives instruction on how to use computer applications and programs. The district also teaches them how to operate SmartFind, which is a system that substitute educators use to find and manage daily or long-term jobs.
“We need as many subs as possible to cover teacher absences and leave of absences,” Fundus said. “We could not do the work we do without our wonderful subs.”
Ferguson said he has enjoyed his time in LPS libraries. He encouraged area residents to explore the idea of charting their own flight paths as substitute educators.
“If you love helping young people, give it a try,” Ferguson said. “It’s very rewarding. At the end of the day you remember the successes that take place. That’s why you do it.”
Local substitute teachers like Ferguson either hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in an area other than education or are currently college students preparing to student teach. Anyone interested in learning more about the requirements for obtaining a local substitute teaching permit at LPS can learn more on the website: home.lps.org/hr/local-substitute-information.
Certified substitute teachers hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in education and have a teaching certificate from the Nebraska Department of Education. Current, former or retired teachers are all eligible to become substitutes.
To learn more about how to become a LPS substitute educator or more opportunities to join our team, visit our careers page at https://home.lps.org/hr/careers/.
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Published: November 17, 2023, Updated: November 17, 2023