Two longtime educators are retiring for a second time this summer.
Barbara VanWassenhoven and Dave Seeba, each of whom has taught more than 40 years, are retiring from teaching at the Patrick J. Thomas Juvenile Justice Center.
VanWassenhoven started her career in 1969 at Logan Fontenelle Junior High in Bellevue as a history and geography teacher. She later went on to get her master’s degree in special education and taught at Bellevue West High School and retired in 2003.
That changed about a year later when Dick Shea, the director of the Sarpy JJC, called and asked her to teach after the previous hire quit after two days on the job. They talked and she saw it as a great opportunity because it was the first year the Nebraska Department of Education implemented Rule 18, which established standards that allowed juveniles in interim program schools to earn academic credit that would transfer to public schools.
“It was just a great opportunity,” she said. “You don’t ever get to start a school, and that’s what I got to do.”
Sarpy County’s JJC was one of 14 in the state during the 2018-19 academic year.
VanWassenhoven said teaching at the JJC was different than working in the public schools because she got to teach a variety of subjects and there was more freedom to teach at a pace appropriate to each student.
“If it took longer to teach something you could take longer to teach something, you didn’t have to be on as tight a schedule,” she said. “And if you were working with a kid and they really had an interest in something you could spend time on that and not worry about it that you’re going to get behind.”
Though her students often dealt with issues such as drug use or mental health needs, she enjoyed getting to know the students and running into her former students when she goes to Scooter’s Coffee or the grocery store.
“I like knowing how they’re doing,” she said.
Seeba started teaching social studies in 1974 at Mission Junior High before moving to Bellevue West, from where he retired in 2006. Some of his peers encouraged him to teach at the JJC, so after he retired from Bellevue Public Schools he moved to the JJC and helped coordinate the Day Reporting Center, where students in the court system can go to recover credits.
“It was my job to try to get them motivated and get back on track academically,” he said.
Seeba enjoyed teaching many different subjects and how he was able to work closely with individual students one-on-one instead of having 20 or 25 students in a classroom.
“It broadened my horizons because I got to relearn things I had forgotten from my high school days,” he said.
“I enjoyed working with the kids tremendously. It’s been a rewarding career to say the least.”
Fifteen students graduated from the education programs at the JJC this year, according to information provided by Sarpy County.
VanWassenhoven said she didn’t know what she would do in retirement, but looks forward to serving on the Bellevue Library Board.
Seeba said he looks forward to golfing, gardening, landscaping and managing his farm near Peru.
“It’s time to catch up on all the things I’ve been wanting to get done,” he said.