It is not a job for Jeanine

Jeanine Jochum Jessies photo Elgin Nebraska Antelope County Nebraska news Elgin Review 1
Jeanine Jochum working with a student in her classroom. E-R photo/JReestman
Jeanine Jochum Jessies photo Elgin Nebraska Antelope County Nebraska news Elgin Review 1
Jeanine Jochum working with a student in her classroom. E-R photo/JReestman

Jeanine Jochum honored with 2021 Nebraska Paraeducator of the Year award

By Jessie Reestman
Staff writer
“When you love what you do, it is never a job.”
These were the first words spoken by Elgin High para-educator Jeanine Jochum in response to receiving the prestigious 2021 Para-Educator of the Year Award last week.
The award, now be proudly displayed on her desk, was many years in the making.
It was September when Jeanine first received a letter from the State Department of Special Education explaining she had been nominated for the award.
Describing her initial reaction, she said, “I don’t like the focus to be on me, and honestly, I didn’t even know if it was real until Superintendent Mike Brockhaus brought in his letter saying I had been nominated. It wasn’t until October that I learned I was a finalist. My feelings changed, and I became very excited and thought, WOW, this is an honor. I was asked to attend the Nebraska Para-Education Conference in Kearney, and it was there I learned that I had won.”
Nominating her for the award was Anney Beckman. Having worked together for 12 years she said she’s watched Jochum interact with special ed students inside and outside, admiring how students have grown fond of her.
Jeanine’s love for working with children with special needs began many years before she ever first stepped foot into a classroom as a para.
“I really do credit my ability to being an effective para to having a sister with Down’s Syndrome. It was through that experience I learned about the love and specialness within these children. I think I learned more from my sister Mavis how to treat children and how to show you love them. I learned to relate to a person with a disability at a very young age,” Jochum said.
Having personal family experience may have been what motivated her to begin her career as a paraprofessional.
It was in 1985 when she was hired for the position by then-Superintendent Dwaine Uttecht.
Since then, she has worked under six administrations and alongside several wonderful teachers such as Sue Vanis, Sherry Kelley, Kim Zwingman and Jenna Lordemann.
However, 23 out of her 27 years on the job were spent assisting Kim Zwingman in the classroom.
In describing Jeanine, Kim said, “Jeanine is a kind and compassionate person. She cares a great deal about each-and-every student and truly has their best interest at heart. Her efforts with the students, along with being a co-worker, go beyond the call of duty. Jeanine is, without a doubt, deserving of the Para-of-the-Year Award, and I was blessed to have worked with her for 23 years.”
These heartfelt feelings about Jeanine are also echoed by her students. One student shared, “Mrs. Jochum is a great para because she helps the students and always wants the best for them.”
Aside from the experience she gained through her sister, Jeanine believes a few other factors have helped contribute to her success in working with students. “All of the teachers I have worked alongside have been fabulous, and I learned a little something different from each,” she said. “Then, of course, is the care and love I have for the children, but I don’t know . . . I guess I’ve never really grown up.
“I just act like a child, a kid, like one of them. I just joke around with them and make it fun.”