“Long” journey to North Platte

How Jennifer Long came from Germany to Nebraska

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Clay Stone

English teacher Jennifer Long holds a doll that she crocheted by hand. “I had a friend at my previous job who crocheted, and I asked if she would teach me,” said Long. She makes mostly dolls because that’s what her friends and family want.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]O[/su_dropcap]n a Hawaiian Air Force base almost 30 years ago, the kindness of one kindergarten teacher shaped the entire life and career of English teacher Jennifer Long. Long was born in Germany on Ramstein Air Base, but moved when she was three years old to spend her formative years in Hawaii. That was where she met kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Kay. “She was just so kind and so generous, and I liked the idea of getting to help,” Long said. “I was always such a helper.”

Little did Mrs. Kay know that her kindness to one kindergarten student would have a lasting impact. Long was, however, heavily influenced by her teacher, and cites Kay as the biggest reason she went into teaching. “I have never wanted to teach kindergartners, but I knew then that I wanted to be a teacher,” Long said.

Pullquote Photo

I have never wanted to teach kindergartners, but I knew then that I wanted to be a teacher”

— Jennifer Long

Long’s father worked in intelligence for the Air Force and that meant they didn’t have to move around as often. But that also meant that she outstayed some of her friends on the base, “That happened a lot, I remember one friend that I had been with for several years that had to move away.” Long vividly remembers walking down the hall to look at the huge map that hung there. “We looked at the map to try to figure out where she was moving to,” said Long.

Long and her family got a final relocation to Bellevue, Neb. when she was ten years old. This brought a lot of changes for her, including the first time she remembers seeing snow. “Our first snowfall was in October, and it wasn’t a huge snowfall, but we ran out and made little snowmen and dressed them up in hula skirts.” Another big change was going to an off-base school, “The school that we should have gone to was full, so we had to be bused into a school in Bellevue.” This difference was much tougher for Long and her younger brother. “My brother didn’t react to the change as well as I did—and I wasn’t super happy about it,” she said.

Clay Stone
Long walks around the class to help students. She says that she really enjoys how motivated the students at NPHS are. “I like the energy and the passion of the students here. A lot of the students are very involved.”

There were lots of downsides to Nebraska for Long, “In Hawaii, we could always run around barefoot. I remember running around barefoot for the first time in Nebraska, and it didn’t feel good.” But in time, this state really started to feel like home. She graduated from Papillion and earned both her Bachelor’s degree and her master’s in-state. “I wanted to stay in Nebraska because it’s where my parents retired. It was better than going out of state and not having any support structure,” she said. Long’s parents are still living here in Nebraska, but her brother is currently in the Air Force and stationed in South Korea.

In her free time, Long loves to bake, “I bake a lot of food. I make cookies, cakes, cupcakes, bread and so on.” She also crochets dolls for friends and family. She became interested in crocheting when she saw a library coworker doing it. “I asked her to teach me, but I am left-handed, so I mostly had to teach myself. Finding another left-handed crocheter is kind of tough.” Long says that the difference between the right and left-handed process is astonishing, “I had to watch a lot of YouTube videos and kind of slow it down and reverse it.”

Long enjoys teaching English because she has always loved to read. Though, her favorite thing about teaching at NPHS is her fellow teachers. “I really like the staff. I like that we get along really well, and it’s so supportive and collaborative.” Even though she spent her years growing up on the move, Nebraska is the place Long truly calls her home.