LEXINGTON — On the day students returned to Lexington Public Schools, Nebraska State Education Association, NSEA, President Jenni Benson met with the Lexington Clipper-Herald to speak about public education, support for educators and the need for teachers.
Benson herself has 30 years of experience in education. Raised in Sutherland and later North Platte, she went on to work as a paraprofessional and taught at elementary, middle and high school levels throughout Texas and Nebraska. She was elected to a three year term as NSEA president in April 2017.
As students return to school all across the state, Benson is working to make sure all students are able to succeed, no matter their circumstances.
Behavioral health has become a prime focus in education in recent years, Benson said. Lexington Public Schools has taken steps to help address this with a positive behavior initiative. The state legislature may also be looking at a new bill LB 147, Benson said, which is being crafted to look at student assaults in the classroom, against both teachers and students and finding resources which can provide support in helping mitigate these significant behaviors.
NSEA has received a grant from the National Education Association, and with it the organization plans to bring everyone with a stake in helping students to the table, from teachers, to behavioral health specialists, administration, etc. They plan to be proactive and not reactive in addressing student behavioral issues.
Benson said they will formulate a plan of action following these discussions, she said at times issues can be discussed but follow up action may not come. The NSEA is being mindful to having a plan in place to make real accomplishments when it comes to behavioral health.
The goal is to provide awareness about mental health, and get these types of resources in the schools to help students with mental issues before they become worse.
Benson cited Lexington as being a unique and diverse community and said people’s efforts, including the schools, to help children is a direct reflection of the effort Lexington has put in to help serve kids. She said she wished all communities had the same drive as Lexington to help their young people.
She said Lexington Public Schools also faces some challenges but Benson wants people to know about the great things which are going on in the public schools.
When asked about the difficulty in keeping new teachers in the profession, Benson said many communities in Nebraska only have one teacher for one subject across many different grade groups. Many may feel isolated but NSEA is trying to offer virtual mentors to these new teachers, Benson said. The important part is to make these teachers feel like they are a part of a group, she said.
The NSEA’s goal is to keep teachers in their positions so schools can remain open and continue to benefit their communities.
According to the NSEA website, The organization is a member-directed professional union representing 28,000 public school teachers, higher education faculty and other education professionals across the state.
“NSEA supports its members through professional growth opportunities which enhance their skills and knowledge, leading to improved student achievement. NSEA provides contract bargaining expertise to improve the financial security of members and to better the working conditions of members and the learning conditions of the students they teach.
NSEA members have access to a variety of membership benefits, including numerous retail and travel discounts, low-rate credit cards, free and low-cost life insurance plans, investment opportunities, and more. NSEA has a dedicated staff that provides expert support and advice to members throughout the state,” according to their website.