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Tara (Settje) Dlouhy didn’t take the most conventional path to land as an instructor in a Lakeview High School classroom.

The Leigh native attended Wayne State College and double-majored in human resources and management before taking an office management position for Pig Express in her hometown. While working there, she received her master’s degree in business and decided to change professions.

“I just felt compelled to challenge myself and help others in different ways than I was currently doing," she said. "I liked my job, but I knew there was more I could do for society and more that I could do to challenge myself a little bit more.”

The decision is paying off, and for the past two years, Dlouhy has been serving as a personal finance, career and accounting instructor at Lakeview, in addition to working as the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) instructor for the largest Class C FBLA program in Nebraska.

Interestingly enough, Dlouhy managed all of these roles – and gave birth to a baby girl, Kinlee – while completing the 36-hour online Transitional Certification Program through the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Dlouhy was a standout in the program, receiving the National Business Education Association Award of Merit. The award is given to a business education student involved in the National Business Education Association, and Dlouhy was nominated by a UNK professor.

But, the accolades don’t stop there. Dlouhy in early June was named the Rookie Teacher of the Year by the Nebraska State Business Education Association, which is provided to a business educator who has been instructing in Nebraska for three years or less. Dlouhy was nominated by Kyleigh Lewis, an instructor at Dorchester High School.

Lakeview Community Schools Superintendent Aaron Plas said that he wasn’t shocked that Dlouhy was honored professionally. He was able to see what she brought to the table as an instructor when she was just in the application process. That’s why he went out on a bit of a limb and hired Dlouhy, knowing that she had to get through the Transitional Certification Program to be a permanent member of Lakeview’s family.

“It’s something that if you think you have a great teacher that is going to do really good things for your district, you have to be willing to move forward,” he said of Dlouhy completing the program while teaching. “And we weren’t afraid because we knew that we were getting a great person who was close to being certified, so it really wasn’t much of a leap of faith.”

Dlouhy said that a rural school district is a great place for her to be. Her husband, Kyle, farms in Leigh, and she’s happy to raise Kinlee and her nearly 4-year-old son, Kaden, in rural Nebraska.

“I love teaching at Lakeview,” she said. “It’s large enough to allow for a lot of opportunities but small enough that we are a family, and you get to know each and every one of your students. The student involvement is great at Lakeview, too, I mean, we have the largest chapter in the state for FBLA.”

Plas noted that Dlouhy’s ability to perform at a high level in the classroom and also as an FBLA adviser isn’t something that goes unnoticed.

“I thought that she definitely was being put into a bit of a difficult situation taking over the largest FBLA program in Class C in Nebraska – that’s a big ask for a new teacher with a whole lot of stuff on her plate,” Plas said.

“She not only took that program on the path it was but continued to make it better. And hats off to her, because that’s a huge undertaking and she’s just done an excellent job.”

For Dlouhy, at the end of the day, it’s really about providing her students with the necessary skill sets to thrive in the real world. From balancing a checkbook to budgeting to understanding day-to-day finances, she said she just wants her students to have a little better understanding of the world around them when they leave her classroom at the end of a semester or year.

“Right away they get to apply those skills,” Dlouhy said. “Whether it be writing a check or balancing a checkbook or interviewing for a summer job, they get to use those skills right away.

"That is why I feel so strongly about business education and why I want to be an advocate for it. And that is why this award (Rookie Teacher of the Year) is such an honor as well, just because I feel like I am a strong advocate for business education in Nebraska.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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