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Teacher Feature

Note from the Editor: 

Here at Lincoln Kids we love to celebrate teachers! In this issue, we are celebrating Brittney Hodges-Bolkovac. You’ll find out just why she is so inspiring in our Teacher Feature Q & A. 

Wishing Won’t Work— While Working Will 

This is the motto Brittney Hodges-Bolkovac, M.Ed., teacher at Dawes Middle School, has lived by since the 8th grade, and uses it with her students. She will often ask her students, “Are you wishing or are you working?”

Brittney was born and raised in Lincoln and is a product of Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) – attending Huntington Elementary, Culler Middle School, Lefler Middle School, and Lincoln High School. Her post secondary education includes:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 
  • Master of Arts in Teaching, College of St. Mary 
  • Master of Education in Administration, Concordia University
  • Working on Doctorate of Education /Educational Specialist, Doane University

LK: Brittney, can you describe your path to teaching?

I went to college for broadcast journalism to be a news anchor as I saw a need for more women of color to be on TV. Instead, I ended up graduating with a BA in Communication Studies. 

After a brief stint at Verizon, I worked as a youth tracker. I enjoyed interacting with kids but wanted to be the person they looked forward to seeing. I wanted a chance to intervene before they got involved in the system.

Becoming a teacher seemed like the perfect fit. I enrolled in a fast-track program to get my MA in Teaching and have been involved in education ever since. I feel I’m making more of an impact with kids. 

My first teaching experience was at a parochial school prior to actually graduating! The school needed someone to teach Spanish. My professor told them about me and that I hadn’t done any student teaching yet. They said, “We’ll take her!” I worked there until I graduated, then joined LPS and started teaching at Dawes Middle School.  

LK: What are your responsibilities at Dawes Middle School?

I wear many hats! I am the only World Language teacher and teach Spanish. I’m the Athletic Director, Community Cultural Liaison, Equity co-chair, and oversee Student Council. It gives me more opportunities to engage with students. I have rapport with them and they respond to me differently because they know and trust me. I’m doing what I love. 

Additionally, two-to-three periods a day I get administrative experience as my goal is to be a principal or superintendent. 

LK: What do you like most about teaching?

It’s rewarding to see where kids start and end the school year. I explain to my students on Day One that they will be reading an entire Spanish novel by the end of the school year. Their eyes get big, and you can see the “no way” expression on their faces. Gradually, they start picking things up and eventually they are able to communicate in another language! 

The relationships I make with my students are also very rewarding and crucial to the learning process. 

LK: What challenges do you face as a teacher?

At the Lighthouse Gala recently, one of the speakers, J.B. Milliken said, “Talent is universal, opportunity is not.” This really resonated with me. Society often has preconceived notions about our students at Dawes. Working at a Title One school people automatically think the students’ capabilities are going to be limited, not realizing Dawes has some of the brightest students in Lincoln. The challenge is helping people understand that our students don’t want pity, they don’t want lower expectations; they want the same opportunities as more affluent students in order to show their skills. 

LK: Describe your teaching style?

I’m a realist, and I’m very engaging. I use humor but my students know that I have high expectations of them because I believe in their potential and want them to be successful in class and in the community. 

LK: What advice would you give to parents whose child is struggling in school?

It’s important for parents, teachers, and the school to be partners. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your child by reaching out to your child’s teacher if you have questions or concerns. Be real with them in a tactful manner. Teachers only know so much about what’s going on with your child and they may not catch things you, as a parent, will. 

I also believe it’s very important to teach your child how to advocate for themselves. Teach them to not wait until they get home to say something because then they have missed an opportunity.

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