Staff Spotlight: Rhonda Neely - music teacher at Maxey and Norwood Park

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 Rhonda Neely, music teacher at Maxey Elementary School and Norwood Park Elementary School.

“Ms. Neely changes students’ lives through her music instruction. She holds students to high expectations from the beginning of their time learning their stringed instruments. She has a clear practice schedule, and she sends home games and challenges over breaks. Ms. Neely also encourages kids to continue and expand their musical experience and knowledge within programs that LPS offers and in concerts that are coming to the city. Students leave feeling confident and proud of their progress. Ms. Neely is a dedicated professional who truly cares for students and their musical journey.” - Amanda Christensen, first grade teacher at Norwood Park Elementary School.

In a few sentences, briefly describe your role at LPS.
I'm a strings specialist for LPS and teach violin, viola, cello and string bass primarily to fourth and fifth graders at various schools. I have also been a co-director of the Youth Ensemble of Strings Orchestra (YES), one of the select performing ensembles in LPS for 21 years.

How long have you worked for LPS?
I started working for LPS in 1994.

What inspired you to become part of the education field at LPS?
My journey into the education field at LPS was inspired by my family's move to Lincoln. I've also taught in California, Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota.

What has been your favorite part of working here? What aspect of your job do you find most rewarding?
I love to learn and have had a variety of opportunities to grow as an individual and teacher! Working with the students is the most rewarding aspect, especially when their eyes "light up" when they can play a certain skill. Music can add a wonderful dimension to a person's life, one that's hard to describe. Guiding students to experience this joy is a pleasure and privilege.

Did you attend LPS as a student? If so, which school(s)? If not, where are you from?
I grew up and attended the public schools in Fremont, Neb.

What path did you take after completing your formal education?
I received my Bachelor of Music Education degree from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. My Master of Education in curriculum and instruction is from Doane University.

What do you enjoy most about the Lincoln community?
I enjoy how Lincoln is so friendly. Even though it's growing, there are many aspects that seem like living in a small town. There are also many music opportunities for me to enjoy as an audience member or performing in a choir or playing my violin. Most of all, my family is here.

What is your favorite childhood book or a book that has influenced your life positively?
"I Love You Forever" is one of my favorite books. The lyrics to a song in the book are, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." I created a simple melody for the words and sang it to my own children. The lyrics are true to many aspects of my life, and I often hear the song in my head.

Share a shout out to a former teacher who impacted your life.
Alice Johnson was my orchestra teacher in Fremont. She was a positive role model, mentor and friend. I was able to start experiencing the joys of teaching strings in junior high because she asked me to be her assistant for the summer program. My dad, Bob Yanike, is a retired choir director who has brought the joy of quality music to many students’ lives. I sometimes catch myself when teaching and reflect on how Dad did something very similar in his teaching.

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

Published: May 9, 2024, Updated: May 10, 2024

Rhonda Neely - music teacher at Maxey Elementary School and Norwood Park Elementary School