Nebraska Teacher of the Year Challenges Her Rural Community to Wrestle with the World

Residents of tiny Taylor, Nebraska, call Megan Helberg a “returner” — one of the few kids to grow up in the town of 190 residents, leave to attend college in the big city and then return as an adult to rejoin this rural community in the Sandhills. Honored as the state’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Helberg says she sees her role as going well beyond classroom lessons and academics. She teaches her students to value their deep roots in this close-knit circle. She advocates on behalf of her school — the same school she attended as a child — which is always threatened with closure due to small class sizes. She has also launched travel clubs through her schools, which Helberg says has strengthened her community by breaking students, parents and other community members out of their comfort zone and helping them gain a better view of the world outside Nebraska while also seeing their friends and neighbors in a whole new light.

The 74 Video Director James Fields and Projects and Multimedia Director Emmeline Zhao traveled to Taylor to see Helberg in action as she puts her philosophy of broadening horizons into action. Watch the full documentary.

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