Thinking about it differently: LPS supports future teachers at apprenticeship program event

LPS employees smile as they sign letters of intent to participate in the new Nebraska Teacher Apprenticeship Program. They will become special education teachers after completing an eight-week class and yearlong apprenticeship program. LPS is participating in the initiative with multiple local, state and national partners.

Abbey Traynowicz and Tanner Hilzer are planning to create the same type of excitement for their students that they experienced this spring.
Traynowicz and Hilzer became members of the inaugural Nebraska Teacher Apprenticeship Program (NTAP) class at a special ceremony. Lincoln Public Schools, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) leaders celebrated with them as they signed letters of intent. They will earn special education endorsements and become teachers after completing an eight-week class at UNL and a yearlong apprenticeship program at LPS.
Traynowicz is an executive secretary at Southwest High School and Hilzer is a behavior technician at Park Middle School. Both felt the new NTAP initiative would help everyone at LPS for many years to come.
“I’m so excited,” Traynowicz said. “I just think it’s a genius way to get people into the profession of teaching. When you’re in the classroom and you’re learning with students, you’re learning by actually helping the students instead of just being told how to do it. You’re getting to do it in the moment, so I’m very excited to see education moving this way.”
“I’m just excited about the opportunity for people who have worked in the field and work directly with the students to have that opportunity to take the next step,” Hilzer said. “Personally, I want to use this as a bridge to become an administrator at some point. I just really want to keep the journey going.”
Traynowicz and Hilzer will be two of eight LPS employees participating in the program. Other class members include Rachawadee Maungkya-Taveepanpun, a migrant education specialist for grades K-6; Isaiah Collier, an in-school suspension program technician for grades 9-12 at Bryan Community Focus Program; Megan Nicholls, a paraprofessional at Huntington Elementary School; Rhiannon Jurgens, a paraprofessional at Clinton Elementary School; Desa Ihde, a behavior interventionist at Campbell Elementary School; and Lisa Fagler, a substitute teacher for grades K-6.
Nebraska legislators approved $1 million last year for the NTAP initiative. The National Center for Grow Your Own, NDE, LPS, UNL, Midland University, Chadron State College and Westside Community Schools are partners in the program, which is designed to address a shortage of teachers in Nebraska.

All eight members of the initial class have earned bachelor’s degrees, but one of the program’s goals is that future groups will include educators with associate’s degrees. They could then earn a bachelor’s degree and special education endorsement through the initiative.
LPS Superintendent Paul Gausman and NDE Commissioner Brian Maher both said the eight LPS employees would use their work ethic and dedication to help special education students.
“Becoming an educator is not merely a career choice, it is a calling,” Gausman said. “A calling to make a difference, to shape the future, to inspire greatness in others. To those who will embark on this new chapter in your professional journey, we have confidence that you will excel and thrive, just as you have done in your current roles in our district.”
“We think this will be the start of a tremendous opportunity for our schools, for our paraprofessionals across the state who are working to become teachers, and ultimately for the students in Nebraska schools,” Maher said.
Sue Kemp, a professor of practice and special education coordinator at UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences, will lead this summer’s initial class. She will prepare the eight students for their apprenticeship program with lessons on many education topics. They will then work directly with veteran teachers at LPS buildings throughout the 2024-25 school year.
“They’re going to be on the job, they’re going to be learning from amazing mentor teachers, and it really is taking our whole department to really be invested, really believe that education can be done differently,” Kemp said. “We don’t have to do the same thing that we’ve always done to put out really great teachers.”
Traynowicz said she has been inspired by watching the unified activities program at Southwest for the past five years. Students from the school team up with their classmates receiving special education services to participate in everything from bowling to track and field. The program has generated positivity for a large number of Silver Hawks.
“Just seeing the way that students and teachers make a big difference in the lives of our special education population, I just want to be a bigger part of that,” Traynowicz said. “I want to make a difference in those students’ lives.”
Hilzer previously worked in horticulture and was a landscape manager at UNL before becoming a paraprofessional. He said switching to the education field has given him a greater sense of purpose in his life.
“For me, I’ve always felt comfortable with my job. It’s never really felt like work,” Hilzer said. “I love doing it every day.”
Traynowicz said having a built-in support system with the eight-person class will be beneficial in many ways.
“I think it’s going to be great to be able to collaborate with each other and work off each other,” Traynowicz said. “There’s going to be troubles, there’s going to be learning curves for us all, so we can go through those together, and there’s also going to be wins that we can celebrate together. I think it’s just going to take that experience to the next level.”
Gausman said he feels the future is bright for everyone in the apprenticeship program.
“Your commitment to excellence, your dedication to our students and your passion for education are an inspiration to us all,” Gausman said. “I’m confident you will continue to make us proud in all you do.”
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Published: April 17, 2024, Updated: April 17, 2024