Spotlight Writer-Helzer

Spotlight Writer
Danielle Helzer

Danielle Helzer

I grew up in Crete and Columbus and have slowly made my west ever since graduating from high school in 2004. I attended college at the University of Nebraska at Kearney; I started college with a theater major, but I found myself in the Academic Advising office five times during my freshman year as I jumped from major to major. I had so many interests that it was overwhelming for me to settle on just one. It was a music professor who finally helped me figure out that I wanted to be a teacher. "Well, Danielle, what do you enjoy?" he asked. And as I blabbed for twenty minutes to a music professor, Dr. Schnoor whom I never even had as a teacher, about my love of writing, how literature can make me weep, and my desires to perform, he listened. When I finally came up for a breath, he smiled and said, "Well, have you ever considered majoring in Language Arts Education?" He walked me through the course catalog and helped me set up a tentative course plan. I left that meeting feeling inspired by his willingness to help a student he had never met. I remembered my high school English teachers, Mrs. Kluck who taught me it was okay to fail a test as long as I tried my hardest, and Ms. Beecher and Mrs. Kluth, who encouraged me to write about my crazy interests. I walked out of that meeting and into the Academic Advising office for the last time where I declared my Language Arts Education major.

Students in Computer lab

After I graduated from college in 2008, my new husband and I longed for an adventure and craved to be closer to the mountains, so when English and Choir jobs opened up in the "wild west," we didn't hesitate to apply. This is our fourth year living in the Cowboy Capital: Ogallala, Nebraska.

Teaching Experience
I am in my third year teaching English 9, Reading, and English 12 at Ogallala High School. I started my teaching career at Perkins County High School in Grant, Nebraska where I student-taught and then was hired in December to teach Practical English 9-12, English 11, Creative Writing, Journalism, and Yearbook.
Student writing
NeWP Involvement

I came to the NeWP battered and burnt-out after my first year of teaching ready to throw in the towel. The four-week Summer Institute saved me. It showed me the importance of making time for professional inquiry, made me feel empowered to speak up and advocate for my students, and gave me a network of supportive teachers who cared deeply about their students and the quality of education in Nebraska. But most of all, the Summer Institute reminded me of the power of writing.
I've been hooked ever since and have not stopped taking NeWP courses since 2009. God willing, I'll graduate this summer (July 2012) with my MA in English and Teaching.

  • Summer Institute participant, 2009
  • Place Conscious Teaching, 2009
  • Level II Internship (social justice focus), 2009-2010
  • Technology Institute, 2010
  • Humanities Institute: Writing in the Content Areas, 2010
  • Levell II Internship (reading and writing in the content areas focus), 2010-2011
  • Advisory Board member, 2010-Present
  • Presenter at the Rural Sites Network conference, 2011
  • Rural Institute, 2011
  • Humanities Institute: Social Justice co-facilitator, 2012
Students writing informally
Sitting in My 1950s Ranch Style Home, I Remember Miguel
Finding a Moment of Peace
Driving Home on Highway 30