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Omaha Magazine

Ernie Chambers, Illiteracy, and Old Favorites: October 2021 Education Issue

Oct 01, 2021 01:21PM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
managing editor Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

My friend and colleague Robert Nelson once wrote in this magazine: “Ernie [Chambers] sometimes serves as the brakeman to a middle-class white-guy locomotive that occasionally barrels through the better angels of our nature.” That’s one of the most astute, and interesting, sentences I have seen about this stalwart of the Nebraska Legislature.

Chambers is one of the two big features in this issue. It’s an article we have been working on bringing to readers for many years. Bob himself tried to interview the now-84-year-old man several times, to no avail. Leo Adam Biga landed an interview with him earlier this year, and talked to him about his work educating the public and his fellow legislators, and standing up for the underdog for all of his 46 years in office.  

The second article is about illiteracy in Omaha, particularly that of illiteracy in immigrant communities. I took Spanish in high school, but I know I could not live in a country in which Spanish is the dominant language and find my way around easily, if at all, these days. Imagine coming to America if you cannot read the sign for a bus stop, or information about a job application. What it is like for someone with this problem is the subject of our second feature.

Omaha is home to many Free Little Libraries, so those who can and do enjoy reading need never go far to find reading material. Some of these cater to children, some include more offerings for adults, some even house school supplies or canned goods for those in need. Our Obviously Omaha includes six Free Little Libraries around the area with unique angles to them.

The Dundee Dell is back, and I am thrilled. My husband and I have spent many nights in this Omaha classic eating fish and chips and drinking Scotch (well, he drank Scotch). Kim Carpenter visited the Dell during the early days of its reopening and has provided readers with the dining review this round. A couple of Omaha favorites were not available that night—including the spicy fried pickles—but the fish and chips were there.

Another article in this issue is about Nebraska Indian Community College, located about 70 miles north of Omaha. Michael Oltrogge, the college president, has worked tirelessly to give people in this area of Nebraska, particularly Native Americans, a place to gain higher education.

In fact, several of our articles this round include education in some form or another—fall is a perfect time to bring readers this education issue. The profile is about a Nebraska teacher who won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2019. This award is given to only two teachers per state. The Gen O is about Andrew Li, who began college-level classes at age 12, and began working as a college teaching assistant at age 16, teaching students who were older than him.

There’s a lot of fascinating articles in this edition. I hope you enjoy them all.

* Note: The hotel edition of Omaha Magazine has a different cover and does not include all of the editorial content included in the magazine’s full city edition. For more information on our city edition, visit