“I look forward to working with the students of the new Nelson Mandela Elementary School because they are our future and I have so much passion for education and I know that they will be the ones to change our city, our state and our world. I am thrilled that I will be able to join them on this exciting journey! I know that they will teach me so much and I am grateful.”- Dr. Susan Toohey
Dr. Susan Toohey is an Omaha native and has a vast array of educational experiences. She attended the Omaha Public Schools through eighth grade, and then graduated from Marian in 1982.
Susan graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with teaching degrees in Earth Science and Social Sciences in 1986. After teaching for one year in Colorado, Susan and her husband Mike returned to Omaha where she taught social studies, English and drama for OPS while also working to complete her Masters in Administration at UNO. Susan then accepted the position of Social Studies Supervisor for the Omaha Public Schools which included: textbook selection, standards alignment to state standards, teacher observation and coaching, curriculum alignment and strategic planning . After serving as supervisor and middle school liaison she then returned to a school setting as the Data Processor and Assistant Principal at Lewis and Clark Middle School.
In 2009, she accepted the position of Head of School at Marian, an all-girls Catholic high school and was responsible for fund-raising and the day to day administration of the high school. In 2012, Mrs. Susan Toohey became Dr. Susan Toohey after successfully completing her doctorate at Creighton University. In 2014, The Lozier Foundation offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to begin a unique, dynamic, creative, community-based , free, private school and Susan was compelled to return to her urban education roots and take on this amazing adventure.
Liz Anderson grew up in Omaha and graduated from Millard South High School. In 2002, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Liz continued her education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and graduated in 2004 with a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. Liz has worked in a variety of settings as a Speech-Language Pathologist with most of her service in pediatrics. She has experience working with patients aged 1 - 21 years and has treated diagnoses including autism, apraxia of speech, expressive and receptive language delays, phonological and articulation disorders, auditory processing disorders, social skills, aphasia, dysphagia, fluency, voice, traumatic brain injury and several other speech and language disorders.
The past five years she has worked in Omaha Public Schools providing services to children aged 3 - 12 years. She is a strong advocate for early intervention. Liz has four young children of her own and has grown as a Speech-Language Pathologist through experiencing child development first-hand as a parent.
In the fall of 2015, Liz will begin working at Nelson Mandela Elementary. "I am so excited to work with the students, families, and staff at Nelson Mandela Elementary. There is no better feeling in the world than when a child learns new speech and language skills and becomes a better communicator both in and out of the classroom."
Riannon Bell is an Omaha native that grew-up in the Ponca Hills area. She attended St. Phillip Neri, a National Catholic Educational Association grade school located in Florence, NE from kindergarten through 8th grade. She attended OPS North High Magnet School until 1995. Riannon started her culinary career in 1998 studying various cuisines including American Southwestern, Creole Cajun, French and Greek Mediterranean. She used her skills to start a career at Omaha Public Schools in 2007 as a kitchen assistant and becoming certified by the National Restaurant Association in ServSafe training.
Riannon transitioned to a traveling manager position assisting the central kitchen which distributes lunches to seven other OPS satellite kitchens. Riannon took a short hiatus in 2014 when she had her second son. She is an advocate for organic and locally sourced foods. Thanks to the Lozier Foundation, Riannon has the opportunity to use her collective culinary talents to serve the students of Nelson Mandela Elementary School.
She states, “I am very thankful and appreciative to be part of such a one of a kind and community serving institution like Nelson Mandela Elementary School. I am looking forward to the start of the school year, GO MEERKATS!”
Jessica Davis is a teacher, musician and artist. She started studying the Suzuki Violin Method when she was six years old. She graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy and earned her Bachelors of Music Education from Bowling Green State University with University Honors under Dr. Penny Thompson Kruse and her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Painting at Bowling Green State University and Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy.
During her undergraduate studies, Davis lived in Empire, Colorado in the summers, and worked as the art director for an Easter Seals camp. Being introduced to a wide range of people with disabilities, Davis started pursing programs that offer musical and artistic opportunities to underprivileged students and people with disabilities. After graduation, Davis moved to Shizuoka, Japan and taught English through the Japan Exchange Teaching Program for two years. She played with the Hamamatsu Symphony Orchestra and studied Japanese ceramics and painting.
Currently, Jessica is a violin artist-faculty at the Omaha Conservatory of Music and Lead Teacher for the String Sprouts Program at Nelson Mandela Elementary and Cody Elementary. She believes that music is a way to empower youth, build confidence, and bridge ability gaps.
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who protest prepare for it today.” - Malcolm X
Omaha, Nebraska native. Lynette attended Omaha Catholic Schools and graduated from Marian High in 1986. She has been in education for ten years, working as an In-School Suspension Facilitator at Blackburn Alternative and Westside High School and as the Pac Facilitator at Franklin Elementary
Lynette has served as a chaperone for the non-profit Condors drill team for over 15 years, chaperoning anywhere from 15-20 youth (ages 7 to 18) who fundraise to travel to different states to perform. Their most recent trip was to Las Vegas to perform in the Martin Luther King Day parade. Lynette is excited to be a part of the Nelson Mandela Family!
Camri Dorsey is an Omaha native. She attended Omaha Public Schools and graduated from Omaha North High School in 2011. Following acceptance into the Goodrich Scholarship Program, Camri attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she graduated with a degree in Elementary and Special Education in 2016. Continuing at UNO, she earned her Master’s degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in English as a Second Language in 2017 through the CADRE Program. During her time at the university Camri served as a leader in many organizations including Kappa Delta Pi, Student Council for Exceptional Children, and the Student Government Senate.
Camri is passionate about education which can be seen through her broad experiences in both general education and special education in various districts including Omaha Public Schools, Westside Community Schools, and Boys Town. Currently she is serving on the executive board of the newly established Niles Paul Foundation where she is an advocate and representative for education. She states, “I am so excited for the opportunity to join the team at Nelson Mandela. I believe every child can succeed and will do my part to uphold the values of the Mandela mission.”
Hannah Buckingham graduated from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2013 with a degree in Elementary Education. In the fall of 2013, she began her teaching career with Omaha Public Schools in a fourth grade classroom. During the summer of 2015, Ms. Buckingham started working on her Master’s degree in Elementary Mathematics through the OPS Teacher Leadership program. It was during a math course held at Nelson Mandela Elementary that she became intrigued with the school’s unique approach to education. She could not sit back and watch this school unfold from afar - she knew she had to be a part of it!
Ms. Buckingham is extremely excited to begin her work with the amazing staff and scholoars at Nelson Mandela this year. “I truly believe that every child can learn if given the resources to do so. I want to see every student I teach find success each and every day in a variety of ways. Along with teaching academics, I enjoy helping my students grow into caring, respectful, helpful citizens who will have a positive impact in their community and the world around them. Above all, I strive to build positive relationships with my students and create a safe, comfortable environment for learning.” One of her favorite quotes about teaching says that every child needs someone who believes in them and pushes them to be the very best version of themselves. Building relationships with students is her favorite part of the job!
“Every child deserves a champion - an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” - Rita Pierson
LC Doss is a native of Omaha. In 2007 he graduated from Omaha Benson High. After Benson LC went on to Ellsworth Community College where he excelled on the basketball court as well as the classroom. Earning 2nd team All American while also earning an Associate’s in Criminal Justice and Fire Science. In 2010 he was awarded a scholarship to attend Eastern Illinois University. In 2012 he earned his Bachelor's in Sociology.
Doss comes to us from a variety of child focused and educational settings. He had most recently been a support teacher at Children’s Square in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He also coaches youth and high school basketball at Millard South. “I am very thankful to have an opportunity to work with the Nelson Mandela team.”
“Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”-Michelle Obama
Annette Foster holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and an endorsement in Special Education from Creighton University in Omaha. She also has a Master of Science degree in Reading from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has worked for the Omaha Public School system as an elementary and middle school teacher for 35 years until her retirement in the spring of 2014. Annette has taught undergraduate and graduate students, managed after school tutoring programs, designed and written various curriculum and programs and has been a member of numerous educational committees. Along with her daughter, Antoinette Davis, Annette is co-founder of Power of Words Literacy. Part of its mission is to encourage reading, so Power of Words co-hosts literacy fairs with various schools which include games, crafts and free books at no cost to participants.
Annette’s mission is to inspire her students to be the best they can be in all areas of their lives. She believes every student is unique and has a purpose. She encourages them to explore their talents and interests. She anticipates their needs and keeps them actively engaged in their own learning by using various assessments as tools followed by best practices in education. She believes educators teach more than subjects and concepts, they teach the whole person. She holds her students to high expectations and they know in no uncertain terms that she expects them to achieve. In response to why she is excited to teach the students at Nelson Mandela Elementary she states, “The reward in teaching is the satisfaction of knowing that I make a difference. When I teach, I have the joy of knowing that I was a part of inspiring a generation of teachers, doctors, lawyers, athletes and others. I may never see the end result of my teaching in a student’s life, but I know that I’ve played a part in planting the seeds.”
Kendall Dorsey is an Omaha, Nebraska native. He attended Omaha Public Schools graduating from Omaha Central High School. He attended Peru State College and majored in physical education.
Mr. Dorsey began working as a custodian for Omaha Public Schools. While working as a custodian, he became a volunteer assistant wrestling coach for the Central Eagles Wrestling team under Jimmie Foster.
Education runs in his family as his aunt and cousin are both educators. They have inspired him to help each student no matter what position he holds in an educational setting. Since deciding to return to school he believes that being a ParaEducator will allow him not only to work with students but to help them to succeed.
Family is very important in his life and he spends time with family as often as possible. In this day and time education is more important than ever. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and I believe that in order to change the world, everyone needs the best education that is available. If I can help with that it will help change the world we live in and I have made a difference. Nelson Mandela Elementary offers both students and educators the opportunity to change the world.
Tracy Jones is a native of Omaha and a graduate of Benson High School. Tracy received an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education shortly after graduating high school. While working in the Early Childhood field for more than 10 years, Tracy’s strong desire to work with low income families and children encouraged her to pursue a degree in Human Social Services Administration while working for Early Head Start. Tracy worked with Early Head Start as a home visitor for 3 years which allowed her to go into homes and work with pregnant and parenting women connecting them with resources in the community and providing parenting and child development coaching. Tracy was promoted after receiving her undergraduate degree as the Family Development Coordinator for the Early Head Start Program which allowed her to supervise Home Visitors that worked with the families in the community and take on numerous administrative duties. During 9 years of supervision for the EHS program Tracy wanted to pursue her childhood dream of teaching. In January of 2010 she received a Masters of Education in Elementary Education. She began teaching Kindergarten for Omaha Public Schools and during that time she continued her studies in Education and received a 2 nd Graduate Degree in Educational Administration which was completed in February 2016!
“I am so excited to have the opportunity teach at Nelson Mandela and give back to the community that I grew up in! I am honored to be a part of the Mandela team. I look forward to continuing my journey in education and I am eager for the wonderful experiences ahead here at Nelson Mandela Elementary! Although I come with 25+ years of experience in Early Childhood/Elementary Education, I am very excited to learn more ways in which I can be more instrumental in the lives of our children and give all I have to make each child I come in contact with successful!”
Stacy Hudson is an Omaha native who worked at North High School for over ten years. For the last eleven years, she has kept herself busy as a homemaker. Stacy volunteered previously at her daughter's school where she has served on several committees and boards, Head Volleyball coach and Assistant Basketball coach. Her mission is to be active in children’s lives. Stacy is looking forward to being part of the Nelson Mandela Elementary family as a receptionist/assistant. She trusts their mission will effectively educate children while improving the community.
Dr. Kerrie Ivey grew up in Omaha and is a graduate of Omaha Northwest High School. Kerrie graduated in 2006 from Creighton University with a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. Kerrie is an experienced pediatric occupational therapist who has worked at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, UNMC- Munroe Meyer Institute as a school based therapist in the Omaha Public Schools, and as a consultant for Phoenix Academy.
Kerrie is passionate about education and is dedicated to equipping our youth with the tools that will instill the confidence and ability to pursue meaningful learning activities by teaching foundational skills from a developmental perspective. Kerrie will use her expertise in the area of development to work with students and teachers to address the student's needs in the classroom. She will use a holistic and multisensory approach to help facilitate the Mandela students' optimal participation in the classroom.
“I am honored to be able to be a part of Nelson Mandela Elementary in it’s infancy. This is a unique opportunity to develop something great for children and I share the vision of empowering students through education. My role as an occupational therapist will be to address the needs of the students from a developmental and holistic approach that will allow them to be active, engaged learners."
I am currently a student at College of St. Mary in pursuit of my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Special Education and an endorsement in Inclusion. I am maintaining a 4.0 g.p.a. While taking classes full time, mothering two teenagers (Jadai 17 and Vincent 15), working full time now with Nelson Mandela (previous experience Conestoga and Standing Bear of OPS). I love to build relationships, empower families, and be a team player. In my spare time (which is rarely offered) I love to sing, cook, and enjoy family time.
Miranda joins the Mandela team this year as she begins her 13th year in education. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Miranda attended Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa where she received her Bachelors with a double major in Elementary Education and Special Education. After completing her student teaching practicum in Chicago, Illinios, Miranda returned to Omaha to teach with Omaha Public Schools. While with OPS, Miranda taught Special Education, Kindergarten, and Second Grade. During this time, she also returned to school to earn a Masters of Literacy with an emphasis in ESL from Concordia University in 2007. The following summer, she spent 6 weeks teaching English in Burundi, Africa to orphaned boys and girls. In 2014, Miranda took her love for teaching into a new setting at the Omaha Home for Boys, as they were in the beginning stages of opening their own on- campus Rule 18 classroom, where young men were able to recover lost or failed credits quickly in order to get back on track to graduate high school on time.
Miranda is so excited to get into the classroom at Nelson Mandela. She is eager to teach academics to her scholars and also build strong relationships with scholars and their families, believing that the two go hand in hand. Miranda enjoys watching her students grow and mature as they learn to take healthy risks as learners and discoverers during their year together in the classroom. As scholars grow older, Miranda enjoys watching them grow into young men and women and strives to stay active in their lives. She states, “Joining the Mandela team is both a privilege and a responsibility. I believe in the mission and am excited to see how the school continues to evolve and grow. I can’t wait to see my students grow and learn and laugh.”
After wrapping up her tenth year in Omaha Public Schools, Kwin is excited to be a part of the Nelson Mandela Team. Kwin is an Omaha native, graduating from Central High School in 2003. She completed her Bachelors of Science with a focus in Elementary Education at Creighton University in 2007 and her Masters in Reading with English as a Second Language endorsement at Concordia University in 2010. Her teaching career began in 2007 in first grade in OPS; after also teaching second grade and ESL, she is excited to be back to the scholars in grade one!
Kwin has a particular interest in childhood wellness; reaching the whole child is her mission in teaching. She became a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher in 2013 and studied Mindfulness Fundamentals and Curriculum Training with Mindful Schools in 2015. Her varied educational experiences really transformed her teaching. This passion led her to develop a curriculum dedicated to childhood wellness in education. In addition to the classroom, Kwin has taught wellness classes with the Neighborhood Offshore, Omaha Girls Rock, Omaha Outward Bound, Girl Scouts of Nebraska, and University of Nebraska Omaha
Kwin is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the unique learning environment at Mandela and looks forward to getting to know her students, their families, and the school community!
McKenzie Hallstrom has lived all over the United States and has recently found a home in Omaha, Nebraska. She enjoys spending time with family and partaking in anything that keeps her active. McKenzie graduated from Wayne State College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Physical Education in 2016. She also attended Western Carolina University prior to that. At both establishments, McKenzie was a member of the women’s soccer team. Involvement in sports growing up and having influential coaches and P.E. teachers throughout her life fueled her passion to pursue a career in health and P.E. Having a father who was a P.E. teacher and coach before joining the military and a mother who was an art teacher instilled in her a desire to join physical activity and creativity together to inspire lifelong healthy living. She believes that a quality health and physical education program will benefit each scholar’s whole being by creating a safe environment for him or her to engage, as well as learn, about physical activities in a meaningful way, establish confidence and social skills, and improve academic performance. McKenzie is excited to explore innovative ideas on how to provide Nelson Mandela Elementary scholars with new and fresh ways to incorporate physical activity and healthy living into their daily lives.
McKenzie shares, “I am beyond grateful to be able to join such a remarkable team of educators, scholars, and families. Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision and I am excited to commit myself to this group’s efforts. Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
KaSheena Maxwell is an Omaha native who has dedicated her time and knowledge to increase college readiness for students in various communities. She and her husband have three children. As proud parents, the Maxwell’s put education and diligence as the top priority within their home. KaSheena attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha and, since the birth of her last child, recently returned to school to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. KaSheena has served as an active employee for Omaha Public Schools for ten years.
KaSheena has worked after school programs assisting children in areas of math, reading, science, and enrichment programs. Through funding provided by LEGO Mindstorms, she taught children how to build, control, and manage software to operate their own robots. As an employee of OPS, KaSheena has taken advantage of training programs offered through the company for new software applications. She has earned three certificates from Metropolitan Community College for Conversational Spanish and has also worked with colleagues for Lead Coalition Education through the UNO Sociology Department.
She states, “I’m excited to embark on a new journey with a company that is passionate about all students in the community.” The program is an amazing curriculum that will offer a chance to be competitive and engage students in a divergent technique of learning. She is passionate about inspiring and motivating children to be better than their circumstances. Maxwell states, “Many people will judge you based upon where you live. Majority of these students have no control over that area in life. They can show the world how intelligent they are while upholding respect, nobility, and grandeur about themselves. You may be in your habitat but you do not have to be a product of your domain if your environment is not conducive to your success.” As Nelson Mandela said, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Melissa McCain is a native of Omaha, Ne, and has been involved in education for 23 years! She graduated from Marian High School in 1987, and went on to earn her Elementary Education degree at Park College in Kansas City, MO, where she also played soccer and basketball. After starting her teaching career in Pensacola, FL as a 4th grade teacher, she moved on to Virginia Beach, VA where she taught 3rd and 5th grade. She finally settled back in Papillion, Ne, where she has taught 2nd -6th grades. In 2002 she earned her Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Doane College, and is finishing up her Elementary Administration Degree through Chadron State College this summer.
Melissa has served as a Literacy coach for Papillion La Vista Community Schools for the past nine years. I have always had a passion for kids and their learning. When I learned more about Nelson Mandela philosophy, I decided I wanted to be part of the team and look forward to teaching the scholars of Nelson Mandela.
Alisa Moore is an Omaha Native who grew up in the heart of the city. She enjoys exploring hidden parts of the city and partaking in new experiences with her friends and acquaintances.
Alisa strives to make an impact on her community and feels teaching and Nelson Mandela will aid in her success. As a product of the Omaha Public Schools system from kindergarten to twelfth grade, Alisa credits her education for many of her accomplishments in her 27 years of life. After graduating from Omaha North High in 2009, Alisa took her talents to University of Nebraska at Omaha where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 2014. Shortly following her graduation from UNO Alisa continued her education and earned a Masters of Arts in teaching from College of Saint Mary in May of 2017. University education afforded Alisa to become a member of an assortment of organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta, NSSHLA, and NCNW. After receiving her degree Alisa also joined Urban League Young Professionals, where she holds a position on the executive board and NONA and continues working with various community service organizations in the metro area. The University of Nebraska at Omaha created the foundation and paved the way for Alisa’s aspirations in early childhood education, and was supported by taking courses at College of Saint Mary.
She truly believes that children are the future and her mission is to be a vessel to assist in expanding a child’s mind and help them reach their full potential. Her true passion shines through in the presence of children with the eagerness to learn and grow. Although she worked in banking before the education path chose her, she believes she has been called to help children and further their education.Through Nelson Mandela Elementary Alisa has gained to opportunity to explore her passion and is excited change the world, one child at a time.
Joseph Ogba is an Omaha, Nebraska native who has spent the past 10 years working in youth education. From 2004-2006 Joseph worked at Boystown as a Respite Tech, helping young men with school work and teaching them social skills to be successful in life.
While working at Boystown, he also served as a member of the Functional Assessment Team, where they developed ideas and goals to help positively shape some of the youths’ behaviors. From 2006-2011, Joseph was one of the Directors of Admissions at St. Peter Claver High School. During his time at St. Peter Claver, Joseph became the Boys Varsity basketball coach. The team finished with a 17-5 record and every senior on the team got accepted to college.
From 2011-2013 Joseph worked as the P.E. teacher, Dean of Students and Athletic Director at Jesuit Academy. For the past two years, he has been doing family support with juvenile probation. In his role as a family support worker, Joseph assisted families in finding resources to help improve their lives and living conditions. Joseph looks forward to working at Nelson Mandela Elementary in his role as family liaison because, he states, “I strongly believe in their mission of how education can help impact lives, make communities better, and also help improve our world.”
Bridget Paul is an Omaha native. She attended St. Margaret Mary grade school followed by Duchesne and Central high schools, where she graduated in 2008. She has an Associate in Arts-General Studies degree from St. Louis Community College, attended St. Louis University and is completing her education degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Bridget has always loved working with children. This love started at her after school job working at St. Margaret Mary’s aftercare program. Her student teaching in St. Louis was with inner city schools. Most recently, she has worked afternoons at the UNMC Child Care Development Center.
The quote by Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” rings true with Bridget. She is excited and grateful for the opportunity to be part of this school and providing a unique and quality education to the Omaha community which ultimately will ‘change the world’.
Jodi Rethmeier spent three years teaching in a middle school and nine years teaching high school in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska. She earned her degree in psychology with a minor in women’s studies in 1990 before working as a secretary in a high school counseling center, then earned her teaching certification and Master’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2001. She returned to graduate school in 2014, after spending a year teaching English to adult English language learners through a community college, and is now pursuing a Master’s degree in Information/Library Sciences while working in a public library.
She said she is excited to be involved with the Nelson Mandela School because, “From the time I first saw the news article about the upcoming school, I knew I wanted to be involved in this exciting venture that will empower children through learning. It spoke to me; I am a grateful parent who has witnessed amazing things from other people while raising our two adult daughters, the three children who still live at home with us, and the exchange student who joined our family this year. This is an opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to my family.” Jodi enjoys reading, scrapbooking, quilting, playing with her grandchildren, and gaining insights from the people she meets and stories she reads. What she is excited about with working at Nelson Mandela is to share her pleasure of reading.
Astin Sibbernsen comes to the Cornhusker State from the Sunshine State of Florida where she was born and raised. Astin attended Columbia High School where she graduated in 2009. She then continued her education at Florida Gateway College where she received her A.A. degree. Finally, she attended St. Leo University where she received her Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education. At an early age Astin knew she wanted to be a teacher. She comes from a long line of educators so “its in her soul” to teach.
As a former fourth grade teacher, Astin has instilled in her students the love for learning and to take active roles to be “problem solvers” in their daily lives. Her classroom atmosphere is one of a warm, nurturing and loving family. Astin is very excited to begin her new adventure at Nelson Mandela Elementary where she will be working with all of the scholars in physical Edicucation and Library Skills.
Tamara Wharton is a native of Ralston, Nebraska who has spent the past 22 years in education. She attended the Ralston Public Schools and graduated from Ralston High School in 1987. She earned her teaching degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 1992 and began teaching in the Omaha Public School District in the fall of 1992. In 1998 she earned her Masters of Arts degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Urban Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. During her 22 years with OPS, Mrs. Wharton spent 1 year teaching at Kellom Elementary, 3 years at Druid Hill Elementary and the past 18 years at Skinner Magnet Center.
During the course of her teaching career Tamara has taught kindergarten and first grade, served as a grade level leader, Instructional Learning Team leader, member of the Safe and Secure Schools team, and a volunteer tutor. Tamara has always believed strongly in the value of integrating arts in the classroom. Several of her classrooms participated in UNO residencies with Josie Metal Corbin. Tamara has participated in Schools Transformed Through the Arts (STart), a project that examined issues related to making meaningful study in the arts integral to a child’s education. More recently, she participated in Arts LINC (Arts & Literature Integrated in Nebraska & California). This federally funded research project investigated how visual art and music could be integrated with literature and language development to increase student achievement. Tamara also co-authored an article in the Early Childhood Education Journal titled Learning About Culture Through Dance in Kindergarten Classrooms.
Tamara states, “I am extremely excited to be part of Nelson Mandela Elementary. I believe in the school’s mission and would like to be part of helping students of Nelson Mandela develop their gifts and talents.”
Maurice Cotton is a native of Omaha. He is a graduate of Omaha Central High School and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Communication at Creighton University. Maurice has over 15 years of experience working with children. As Program Director at the Mid-America Council, Boy Scouts of America, Maurice received great experience working with OPS after-school programs and OPS staff. Maurice is also an Assistant Scoutmaster at troop #362. Prior to scouting Maurice had the privilege of working with the late, great Dr. Joe Edmonson at the Edmonson Youth Outreach Y.M.C.A., where he was a Director of the radio and broadcast journalism program as well Coordinator for after-school programming. Maurice enjoys cooking barbeque as well as well spending time with family and friends!
Heidi Wilhelm has spent the majority of her life teaching in a variety of roles from the traditional classroom to the theater. She attended Millard Public Schools and graduated from Millard North High School in 1995. Heidi earned her degrees in Early Childhood, Elementary, and Special Education from the College of Saint Mary in 2004 and began teaching in the Millard Public School District in the fall of 2004. Mrs. Wilhelm spent all of her 13 years with MPS at the same school that she attended as a child, Cottonwood Elementary. During the course of her teaching career Heidi has taught pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade. She has served as a grade level leader, Millard Intervention/RTI team member, member of the PbIs team, Art Club sponsor, Google Guide, Class Dojo Mentor, Staff Development leader, and building mentor. Heidi’s teaching career has been focused on empowering the whole child to become not only the best learner they can be, but the very best person. She is passionate about educating young minds and helping them to develop and bloom into responsible, well-rounded, and successful members of our world. Her strengths in adaptability and creativity have enabled her to develop lesson plans that accommodate multiple intelligences and hands-on learning opportunities that keep her students engaged and excited about learning. Heidi draws on the diverse interests of her students to help in building their own connections between the classroom and the world around them.
Heidi states, “I am so excited to be a part of Nelson Mandela Elementary. The value of every child is apparent the moment you enter the building. I have always believed that every child is gifted. The mission at Nelson Mandela Elementary school ensures that every child is given the tools needed to develop and realize their own gifts.”