LCC names Dr. Kristin Pfabe Volunteer of the Year

LCC names Dr. Kristin Pfabe Volunteer of the Year

Considering 93 percent of incarcerated individuals will make the transition back to the community, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) programming that helps them become successful outside is essential. In order to hold programming, NDCS needs volunteers.

“Volunteers provide a unique means to assist with each individual’s success,” said Lincoln Correctional Center (LCC) Warder Taggert Boyd at the annual LCC Volunteer Banquet. “Incarcerated individuals tend to cherish volunteer-led programs and have better participation rates,” said Boyd.

Boyd speaks of the positive impact volunteers have on the agency. He says they offer the incarcerated population educational opportunities for self-improvement, but also  compassion, kindness and inspiration. “I have seen volunteer programs in a prison single handedly change the culture of a prison,” said Boyd.

Every year, LCC recognizes one person as their volunteer of the year. This year,  Nebraska Wesleyan University Mathematics Professor Dr. Kristin Pfabe received the award.

For Pfabe, it all started with a book – Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. As the chair of a planning committee, she invited Stevenson to come speak at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Meanwhile, she found herself talking to a colleague who was already teaching at the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) and was inspired to do something meaningful with her upcoming sabbatical. So, she volunteered at NDCS.

Pfabe described her initial experience teaching Combinatorics and Probability, a method for calculating the total number of possible outcomes, at NSP and LCC as outstanding. “The students worked so hard and held themselves to high standards,” Pfabe said.

Pfabe says she challenged her students and they continually rose to each challenge. She was most surprised by how much the students helped each other and how generous they were with showing gratitude. After the two month course completed, she knew she wanted to do more. Since then, she has been teaching Algebra 1 at LCC. This summer Pfabe is adding an intermediate algebra class through the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) with a grant from the Scott Family Foundation. Students will be able to earn college credit for the course and she is optimistic about a high success rate.

In addition to her work at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Pfabe has taught a host of math programs for students of all ages through UNL, Lincoln Public School District, and Bright Lights Summer Learning Adventures. She also teaches gerrymandering which is the drawing of political boundaries to give certain parties a numeric advantage over another. Furthermore, Pfabe is a violinist for the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra and participates in a variety of  civic activities.

Pfabe says out of all of the activities she’s involved in, volunteering at NDCS is where she has found some of her most rewarding work. “I’ve always felt I had a lot of purpose in my life, but until I started teaching in the prisons, I didn’t know how purposeful it could be,” said Pfabe. “I take this volunteer work very seriously. I take a lot of time preparing for class and grading. Being able to watch my students grow and learn has been so rewarding and to see them embrace the process of learning.”