Pearley honored for 50 years of dedicated service to LPS

Jeannette Pearley has represented Lincoln Public Schools with a heart of gold for the past 50 years.
Friends and co-workers celebrated her caring and kind approach to life at a surprise party Dec. 19.
Pearley began her golden work anniversary with smiles, laughter and happy tears at the district’s early childhood center. Her first day at LPS was Dec. 19, 1973, and she has maintained a valuable presence in the school system ever since then. Pearley serves as the executive assistant in the LPS Early Childhood Department and performs many payroll and bookkeeping duties. She was stunned when she opened a door to the main office and saw many well-wishers standing near her desk.
“I feel like a movie star,” Pearley said with disbelief in her voice. “All these cameras.”

Pearley was familiar with LPS well before her first day of employment. She was born in Nebraska City and moved to Lincoln with her family when she was in elementary school. She attended classes at both Clinton and Elliott schools before graduating from Lincoln High.

Pearley started working in downtown Lincoln as a cashier and bookkeeper after high school. She learned that East High School’s counseling office was looking for someone to perform secretarial work in a paraeducator role in 1973. She decided to apply for the job because of her positive experience at LPS growing up. 

Pearley was asked at the beginning of her job interview if she could type, and when she said yes, she was instructed to produce a few paragraphs on a typewriter. She was hired on the spot after she aced the test.

Her career at LPS blossomed after that. She worked as a registrar at Lincoln High when her daughter Joanna Davis-Yoakum was enrolled there, and she then moved to an office spot in Elliott’s building. She spent time in the special education department before starting her current job when she was 70.

LPS Director of Early Childhood Programs Cara Lucas-Richt said she is grateful for Pearley's deep-rooted knowledge of the entire school district.

"Jeannette really is a person of service and does a lot of things for a lot of people in our department," Lucas-Richt said.

Pearley said the variety of tasks at LPS has produced a rewarding work environment.

“Every day is different,” Pearley said. “It could be quiet, or it might be busy. You go with the flow.”

Pearley will celebrate her 77th birthday in March and has witnessed widespread changes in curriculum and technology during her career. She said leaps forward in technology have been among the most impactful she has witnessed. 

Pearley used typewriters during her first few years and “was on the ground floor” when computers became part of the educational landscape. Her job today involves e-mail, Zoom, high-speed internet, portable spreadsheets and lightning-quick search engines.
“I just enjoy the people and I enjoy the learning, because it’s been change after change after change,” Pearley said. “It keeps your mind going.”

Pearley’s vast institutional knowledge isn’t her only asset to her team. Lucas-Richt said Pearley keeps staff morale high with her thoughtful personality. She decorates the building with festive holiday items each year, and she brings cookies and other food for her co-workers to enjoy. Her fellow employees have also relied on her encyclopedia-sized vault of expertise to answer questions about district history and procedures.
“We’re really lucky to have her as part of this department,” Lucas-Richt said.
Pearley said she is grateful to have received support from many other family members who work in the education field in LPS and outside of Nebraska. For example, her daughter now teaches at the Bryan Community Focus Program. Its proximity to Pearley’s office allowed Davis-Yoakum to join the surprise. Pearley looked at her daughter with amazement as Davis-Yoakum revealed she had known about the party for several weeks.

“It was great, because 50 years of service is a huge deal,” Davis-Yoakum said. “It’s nice to see her speechless because she’s usually not speechless. It’s heartening to see that everyone here cares about her that much.”

The mood at Pearley’s desk remained cheerful throughout the day. Three of her co-workers wore matching 1970s-era outfits with multi-colored flowers on them, and everyone smiled as Pearley cut the first slice of an anniversary cake. Her former principal at Elliott was one of many people who stopped by the office to give big hugs to their beloved friend.
Pearley used the word “overwhelming” to describe her initial feelings about the surprise party. She said she is thankful to have made hundreds of golden memories during her five decades at LPS.
“The years have gone by very rapidly,” Pearley said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s 50 years.”

Pearley said she has never considered leaving the district for another type of job. She said being able to work with so many good people at LPS is the primary reason she has dismissed thoughts of retirement.
“I enjoy what I do,” Pearley said. “I really enjoy what I do.”

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Published: December 22, 2023, Updated: December 22, 2023

Jeannette Pearley smiles as she receives hugs from well-wishers at a surprise party Dec. 19. Pearley marked her 50th anniversary of working for Lincoln Public Schools. She currently serves as executive assistant in the LPS Early Childhood Department.