Nebraska State Board of Education Members
The Nebraska Legislature has completed redistricting of political boundaries which includes changes to the State Board of Education. We will update the district map as soon as it is available.
Patricia Koch Johns - District 1
Patricia Koch Johns has been involved in education for over 40 years in Nebraska, as well as Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri. In 1972, she earned her degree in education from Kearney State College with an emphasis in theatre, English, and speech. She continued her education and earned a Masters Degree from the University of Arkansas with a degree in communications with an emphasis in theatre in 1974. Koch Johns began her teaching career in Nebraska in 1976 at Cozad High School and remained there until she accepted a position at Lincoln High School in 2000. In 2006, Koch Johns was named the Nebraska Teacher of the Year, and in 2012 she was honored with the Governor’s Excellence in Arts Education Award.
As a master teacher/leader, Koch Johns was an English department chairperson and created curriculum for 8th grade theatre and dramatic literature and established the new Lincoln Public Schools graduation requirements. She helped create, write, and evaluate state and national standards in fine arts. Koch Johns was also a lead writer for the original Nebraska Frameworks for the Visual and Performing Arts and served as an advisor for the creation of the NDE Language Arts Degree. She also directed the award-winning Poverty: Not a Choice with Nebraska Loves Public Schools.
Koch Johns is the recipient of numerous teaching awards such as the Nebraska Speech Communication and Theatre Association’s John Thurber Distinguished Teacher Award, the Time Warner Award, the Alltel Outstanding Educator Award, and the National Federation of Interscholatic School Activities Speech/Theatre Educator Award, to name a few.
Koch Johns has held leadership positions in the Nebraska Speech Communication and Theatre Association, Nebraska Thespians, Nebraska School Activities Association, Central Nebraska Forensic League, Nebraskans for the Arts, Lincoln Education Association, Cozad Education Association, Nebraska State Education Association, and the Angels Theatre Company. She has also served on numerous boards including the National Federation of High School Activities, the University of Nebraska at Kearney Fine Arts Advisory Board, and the Lincoln Public Schools Foundation. Koch Johns holds an International Baccalaureate teaching certificate and has participated in educational workshops at the Kennedy Center, the Buffet Institute for Early Childhood Education, Open Sky, and the Wesleyan Inclusive Education Institute.
Patsy Koch Johns hopes to work with issues of poverty, the achievement gap, AQuESTT (the new state assessment and evaluation process), and the implementation of the fine arts standards and early childhood education during her term as a Nebraska State Education Board member.
Her two adult children work in Nebraska public schools, and their children are strong products of the public educational system. As a teacher, a mother, a grandmother, and now a Nebraska State Education Board member, Patricia Koch Johns hopes that her investments in education will benefit all families in Nebraska.
Lisa Fricke - District 2
A teacher in Nebraska Public Schools for 36 years, Lisa Fricke has deep roots in Nebraska and District 2. Lisa graduated from Bellevue High School, and her father, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Frank Allen, was active in the community and with veterans’ organizations. Because of her father’s dedicated service to our country, Fricke is a strong advocate for veterans.
Lisa earned her bachelor’s degree in Communications from Wayne State College and, as her five additional endorsements demonstrate, she is a believer in life-long learning. Lisa has taught English 6-12, Geography 7- 9, Speech 9-12, Drama 9-12, Reading 8, and Language Arts 8.
Lisa has served as a master teacher mentor for the Intergenerational Mentoring Program, has helped develop NeSA Assessments for Reading, Writing, and Special Education Math, and was a gubernatorial appointment to the Special Education Accountability Commission for three years. She has also served on Several School Improvement External Visitation Teams. A strong supporter of health education, Fricke is a member of the Nebraska’s Educator Health Alliance (EHA).
Fricke and her husband Dave have three children, Jason, Ryan, and Erica & Captain Stephen Velasquez who have Blessed Fricke with three precious grandchildren, Xander, Ari, Cohen.
Patti Gubbels - President - District 3
Patti spent 30+ years working in post-secondary professional education positions before retiring. Her career included teaching education and psychology courses at Northeast Community College, Wayne State College, and the University of Nebraska-(adjunct). She served as the Chair of Teacher Education at Dana College and Western Governors University-Salt Lake City, UT. Her last position before retiring was Director of Faculty Development at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.
Patti served on the Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education, Nebraska Association of School Boards Board of Directors and Legislation Committee, Norfolk Arts Center Board of Directors, Norfolk Noon Kiwanis, and Teammates mentor.
Patti has received the Phi Delta Kappa International District IV (Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Manitoba) Distinguished Dissertation Award. Phi Delta Kappa Northeast Nebraska Chapter Research Scholarship John A. Glover Memorial Research Award, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Northeast Community College, First Tier Award for Teaching Excellence
Patti holds a Ph.D. Educational Psychology-Cognition and Learning, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, M.S.E. (Master of Science in Education) Counselor Education, Wayne State College, and B.S. (Bachelor of Science) Sociology/Psychology, Wayne State College
Patti sought a position on the State Board of Education because I am passionate about teaching and learning. I believe my educational experience and expertise will provide me with the opportunity to make a positive impact on Nebraska’s schools, teachers, students, and communities.
Jacquelyn Morrison - District 4
Jacquelyn is an Attorney. Jacquelyn is a member of the Office of Violence Prevention Advisory Council. Jacquelyn earned a Juris Doctor Degree from Georgetown University. Jacquelyn believes that every child in Nebraska, no matter their background or socioeconomic status, should have access to a high quality education. I hope to provide a voice for parents, students, and teachers.
Kirk Penner - Vice President - District 5
Penner is President of Penner Patient Care, which distributes bathing systems to long-term care facilities. He’s also President of Penner Manufacturing, which makes and assembles bathing systems in its Aurora facility for use in both the healthcare industry and residential settings. Penner is active in his community as President of the Aurora Development Corporation (ADC). ADC recruits businesses to Aurora and encourages investment in Hamilton County.
Sherry Jones - District 6
Sherry Jones is a retired teacher who served for 35 years in Grand Island Public Schools. In her role as a teacher she worked in special education, language arts, and elementary school counseling from Kindergarten through 9th grade.
Jones is a charter member of the Association of American Educators and a Good News Club leader for Child Evangelism Fellowship. She was named Counselor of the Year in Grand Island in 2006. Jones has a Masters Degree in School Counseling K-12 from University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Jones wants to be a conservative voice on the State Board of Education and believes the state needs education that is protective of children’s hearts, minds and bodies, in line with the will of parents, and mindful of the resources provided by taxpayers.
Elizabeth Tegtmeier – District 7
Elizabeth Tegtmeier has been involved in education for years as a teacher in both a public and private school and as a home school teacher. She has a Masters of Arts in Education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Tegtmeier brings her unique perspective on education to the board and wants to represent the needs and interests of all western Nebraskans.
Deborah Neary – District 8
Deborah was elected to the Nebraska State Board of Education in 2018. She has had a long career dedicated to serving her community and working in education-focused nonprofits. In the fall of 2020 she concluded her decade-long tenure as the Executive Director of Mentor Nebraska, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the number and quality of youth mentoring programs in our state.
Her work has been recognized with several awards over the years. She most recently was honored with the 2019 “Holland Heroes” Award for ongoing dedication to Children & Families, an award presented by the Holland Institute.
Deborah was appointed by Governor Ricketts to the ServeNebraska board in 2016 and again in 2020, and she is also a Trustee for the Business Ethics Alliance. Deborah was a member of Leadership Nebraska ClassXII and was in Class XXXI for Leadership Omaha. Deborah is also a long-time member of both Rotary and the League of Women Voters, as well as an active mentor to many youth and young adults. In 2016 Deborah was the Recipient of the Integrity Award presented by the Better Business Bureau; in 2015 she was the recipient of Gallup’s Can Do Award presented by Kids Can Community Center; and in 2014 Deborah received the Catalyst Award presented by the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands. Deborah has a Master’s degree in History with minor in Public Administration & Art History.
Dr. Brian L. Maher – Commissioner of Education
Dr. Maher is a long-time educator with strong Nebraska roots. He served as superintendent at Sioux Falls School District (South Dakota) from 2015 to 2020; a 25,000-student school system where he led during the beginning stages of a worldwide health pandemic. Maher also served as superintendent at both Kearney (2007-2015) and Centennial (1999-2007) Public Schools in Nebraska. In his tenure as a school superintendent, he successfully led four bond referendums in three different school districts. Dr. Maher was also an administrator at Waverly, Elkhorn, and Johnson-Brock Public Schools and a teacher at Elkhorn and Clarks Public Schools.
Maher most recently served as the CEO and Executive Director of the South Dakota Board of Regents, from 2020 to 2023. In that role he conducted a system-wide review of the Board of Regents, which includes six universities and two special schools. This was a statewide review that lasted more than a year and culminated with a report to the legislature and the governor. Dr. Maher also lobbied the two-house legislature for historic funding during the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions for the state’s public higher education system and led an effort which resulted in no increase in tuition for public higher education institutions in the 2022 and 2023 legislative sessions.
Dr. Maher received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education at Midland Lutheran College before he went on to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in educational administration from the University of Nebraska.
As Nebraska Commissioner, Dr. Maher will serve on several boards and commissions in the state.