Spotlight: Teacher Appreciation Week

Spotlight: Teacher Appreciation Week

When Amber Drake decided to put her teaching career on hold to move closer to home in 2009, she was excited to work side-by-side with her “little” brother, Lieutenant James Franzen, at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution (TSCI).

Working with family has been an amazing experience for Drake – having someone to learn from, someone to share and reflect with. Next week she looks forward to celebrating with Lt. Franzen as he is awarded Supervisor of the Year for Lincoln Correctional Center (LCC).

Drake’s ten years of service with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) has extended her definition of family beyond her brother. She considers NDCS her extended family and said she appreciates how they take care of each other.

Drake also values the experience she gained while at TSCI. She wore many different hats including custody staff, field training officer, back-up training specialist, and crisis negotiator for special teams. When she noticed an opening for a teaching position at Lincoln Correctional Center (LCC), she saw it was a natural fit for her to bring her two worlds of teaching and corrections together.

An educator at heart, Drake takes every opportunity to teach, mentor, and help those around her. “There’s always a huge need for positive growth and development,” Drake said.

Teachers are a big part of the correctional system. As whole, NDCS Education has 525 enrolled students. So far this school year they have graduated 82 GEDs and 30 high school diplomas.  

Drake has contact with all 77 students currently enrolled in various educational programs at LCC that increase their chances of success in the community. LCC also has partnerships with Wesleyan University, UNL and Drake personally teaches two courses through Metro Community College of Omaha that earn students college credit.

“We have a phenomenal educational team and supportive administrative staff here,” said Drake. “We are making big educational gains.”

Drake spoke highly of how well teammates communicate.  She said teachers, line staff, mental health, and administration all work together to make sure they offer the best programs individuals need.

“Our goal is more than acquiring a high school diploma or equivalency,” said Drake. “We foster pro-social skills and promote being a college and career-ready citizen.”

Drake always seeks to contribute to a positive atmosphere for her teammates as well as incarcerated individuals and the public.

“My favorite part of the job is looking a man in the eye while shaking his hand, knowing his success story,” said Drake. “Being part of the journey makes it worth every high and low.”