The UNO Alumni Association will bestow its Citation for Alumni Achievement award upon UNO graduate LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Friday, Dec. 18, as part of the university’s December commencement ceremonies.
Plambeck, founder of Montessori Educational Centers in Nebraska, will receive the award at the first-ever commencement ceremony held at Baxter Arena. Commencement begins at 2 p.m.
Inaugurated in 1949, the citation is the association’s highest honor. It encompasses career achievement, community service, involvement in business and professional associations, and fidelity to UNO. Plambeck will be the 169th UNO graduate to receive the award, presented by Association President Lee Denker.
“Dr. Plambeck has been a fierce advocate for early childhood education for nearly 50 years,” Denker said. “We are proud to count her as a member of the UNO alumni network now numbering more than 105,000 living graduates worldwide.”
Plambeck began her education career teaching music at Omaha Central High School. Later, she became inspired by the success stories she learned were fostered by the Montessori teaching method, a philosophy of education that calls for early intervention while putting much of the responsibility and freedom for learning within the child’s control. She received formal teacher training in Chicago under the direction of leading European Montessori instructors.
In 1968, Plambeck opened Omaha’s first Montessori Educational Center. Six years later, she launched the Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute to provide professionals with training and certification in the Montessori method.
Today the Montessori Educational Center includes seven locations, including Kopecky Elementary School for grades 1-6. The licensed, private education system provides Montessori education to nearly 350 students and is affiliated with the American Montessori Society, the foremost advocate for Montessori education in the nation. She also has opened Montessori schools in Denver and Fort Worth, Texas.
“Dr. Plambeck has been a true visionary in early childhood education,” said Nancy Edick, dean of UNO’s College of Education. “While fairly recent research has helped the broader community understand the value of investing in high-quality experiences for babies and young children, LaVonne has known and acted upon this belief for decades. The youngest citizens of our community have opportunities that would not exist without LaVonne. She is an education legend who is admired and respected for her many accomplishments.”
Plambeck earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from UNO in 1954 with an emphasis in music education. She later earned a master’s degree (1972) and doctorate (1980) in education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
She has worked extensively on early childhood education with UNO’s College of Education, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Omaha’s College of Saint Mary and Concordia University in Seward, Neb. She also has served on numerous educational policy committees at local, state and national levels and has consulted on the development of Montessori schools in Tokyo. She has served as treasurer of the Nebraska Association of Young Children, served on the American Montessori Society Board of Directors and been a consultant for the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education. She also has served on an advisory committee on early childhood education for the State of Nebraska and was appointed to a White House conference on families.