Category Archives: ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

The secret summer lives of teachers


Teachers, believe it or not, have lives outside of school. Most teachers have families, second jobs or hobbies that we, as students, are almost completely unaware of.

English teacher Mr. Troy Ackerman runs a lawn mowing business over the summers and has been involved in his business for 10 years. He uses the manual labor as a way to recharge from the school year, as well as a way to connect with other people.

Ackerman is one of the many teachers who would like to travel more over the summers. His most memorable summer was a summer spent in Cabo, down in Baja California, because it was a change of scenery and wasn’t here in Nebraska.

Ackerman isn’t the only teacher who wishes there were more time over the summer for things like travel.

Mr. JD Davis, a history teacher here at Papio South, said with the amount of time he spends during the summer with his grandson, and preparing for the upcoming school year, it leaves no time for travel.

Not only does Davis spend time with friends and family, he is the drummer for a local cover band called eNVy. He joined the band when he was approached by the current lead singer, a friend from church, and asked to accompany her.

“People liked it, so we kept going,” Davis said. The band, eNVy, performs throughout the summer. 

Even with this busy schedule, Davis still finds time to prepare for the upcoming school year, looking for new activities and ways to teach. “I love this place,” he said.

Performers recite, poets flourish at library mic


Papio South’s official Open Mic Night was a success. After the first attempt at running it failed due to initial lack of interest, last Friday’s well advertised event had a humble but active crowd of participants with many performers bringing friends, filling the audience. The cosy library setting gave the event a comfortable café feel with lights dimmed, a podium and posable mic provided for versatility. There were guitarists, smooth singers, and slam poets – the evening was a small show of Titan talent.

Alumni, family, and local friends were able to be brought along. Christmas sugar cookies were available, topping the night off sweetly.

Relaxed and friendly, the Open Mic crowd agreed that they wanted it to be run again, ideally as a bi-weekly occurrence. News on this will be advertised when decisions have been made by staff.

‘Celebrity Reader’ Rikli shares time, story


Papillion La Vista Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Andrew Rikli sat down with about a dozen students Wednesday and led a reading and discussion of the picture book “Llama Llama and the Bully Goat.” Rikli’s visit was part of PL South’s Celebrity Reader’s Circle, organized by teachers Mrs. Christine Ebke and Mrs. Rebecca Hoesing.

Celebrity Reader’s Circle is a Learning Center-based enrichment program that invites influential people from the community to come to the school and read a story that can be used to engage students in conversation. Ebke said the program was “designed to facilitate real-world connections for students with special needs through the power of written and spoken word.”

The program is intended to help special-needs students further develop skills such as asking “who,” “what,” “when,” “where” and “why” questions, as well as speaking clearly and commenting on conversational responses, Ebke said.


Proposal would eliminate class rank


By definition, class rank is a measure of how a student’s academic performance compares with that of other students in his or her class. The idea of class rank was created to reward those who excelled academically.

Despite the intention of class rank, students ranging all over the grading scale have argued that it can have quite the opposite effect.

In a proposal presented at the Papillion La Vista Community Schools board meeting on Monday, members discussed replacing the current ranking system with the Laude Recognition Model used at many universities and an increasing number of high schools.

The presentation quoted perspectives from a number of area students: “The current system demotivates students, particularly if you are not ranked at the top you know there is no way to get there,” one said. Another added, “All students with the highest GPA should be recognized.”

If the new plan is adopted, individual rankings would be replaced by three honorary categories: Summa Cum Laude (“with highest honor,” GPA of 4.25 or higher on a 4.00 weighted scale), Magna Cum Laude (“with great honor,” GPA of at least 4.00 but less than 4.25) and Cum Laude (“with honor,” GPA of at least 3.75 but less than 4.00) . This would start with next year’s freshman class, according to information distributed at the school board meeting.

One student said of the proposed system, “It’s not a competition for one spot but a recognition of excellence.”

Titans fight to the finish


All sports want to feel support from their school. The volleyball team felt this when the entire student body gathered to send the varsity team off to the state competition in a surprise rally organized by volleyball parents and teammates on Nov. 12.

“It was awesome, it was very surprising,” senior Michaela McClellen said. “We were like, ‘We actually have support’ – and everyone appreciated it.”

At state, Lincoln Southwest beat Papio South in their first set, 25-23, but the Titans answered that with two back-to-back wins, 25-23 and 25-13 over the Silver Hawks. The teams then traded wins, with Southwest triumphing 25-21 and the Titans finishing it with a 15-12 victory in the final set.

“It was exciting, nerve-wracking – it was a good experience,” sophomore Mallory Voyles said.

The Titans moved on to face off against defending champion Marian on Friday. Against Marian, the Titans claimed just one victory, in the second set, 25-23. Marian won the other three, 25-20, 25-17 and 27-25, to reclaim the state title.

The Titans ended the season with an overall record of 35-7 and ranked 9th in the state.

Music to keep you warm this winter


On Sept. 23, Twenty One Pilots played their Blurryface setlist at Sumtur Amphitheatre. Dedicated fans, such as myself, stayed to be reborn through the music despite the skies tearing open and absolutely soaking us all through with rain.

Summer’s officially over, guys.

IMG_6653So what happens fall-come-winter for the music lovers that need to be out and about and living that concert attendee life?

Do not despair! I am here to guide you, friends.

Colder weather does NOT make the local noise any quieter. Grab a really woolen coat and roll your socks up as high as they go, get in your car, and let’s pick a venue.

(S’all gonna be indoors, no worries. We’ll keep you cosy.)


Want to discover some upcoming bands and names barely heard of (because we all know you need some legit hipster points)? Let’s go underground, bud. There’s music playing live here all. the. time. Shows range from FREE to $25 – and most fall in around $5. Their website is CONSTANTLY updated with shows and events – if you’re under 17, be sure to check out their admission rules as this venue does have a bar. All through October and November there are regular rock gigs.



More rock, more rock, more rock!!  Metal band Havok are there to wreak it on November 6th.  Girl on Fire play here on November 10th. Don’t know these names? Me neither. Oh, you do? Great, go rock out, buddy. Lookout Lounge’s got a lot more planned, too…

SITE: . (This is another bar, so bear that in mind!)


Sufjan Stevens, “similar to Arcade Fire”, is present and correct with gentle, pretty folksy music on October 28th. His stuff is like the soundtrack you need for the quiet moments in the winter sunshine, when the rays are catching the icicles on the naked tree branches and everything is silent under its blanket of white – ah, bliss. And possible days off school. That’s a good memory that hasn’t been made yet, right? Go listen to his music and tell me it doesn’t invoke that feeling, of pretty little mornings and the serene simplicity of waking up and feeling just okay. He’ll be bringing that to Omaha and I am delighted, actually. Ahem, that’s enough bias for one article–


Here’re your big gigs. Taylor Swift is in town on October 9th. All tickets are SOLD OUT but if you want to pay out for some resale tickets, ticketmaster has your back. Hurry!

Janet Jackson will be rocking out on October 30th and big name Black Sabbath arrive January 20th. …Tell your parents and never never, never say die! Yeeeah!

More classics?! Def Leppard, Foreigner, and Night Ranger are all playing together October 11th and there ARE tickets available. I don’t feel like you’re very excited by this. Foreigner did “You’re as Cold as Ice/I really need to sacrifice your love…” and “I wanna know what love is!!”. Yes? No? Okay. Motley Crue play on December 4th, if you need more oldie swayin’.


The Story So Far arrive on October 29th, who belt out catchy punk rock. I know that’s an oversaturated genre, but it’s still… so… good… And it’s definitely the sound you need to pump yourself up and shake yourself out of the sadness that your vacations were over around what, three months ago? Sorry for reminding you.

Go get the app BandsInTown if you want to stay updated with local events! I’m not being paid to advertise, unfortunately, I’m just being a good journalist in sharing my primary source with you – uh, wait…

Get some live music in your life and some bass in your veins, and maybe I’ll see you somewhere. As Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun might say, “stay lit” this fall, friends.

Riensche leaves a harmonious legacy


For years the Papillion-La Vista South vocal music office was inhabited by an interesting, unexplainable object mysteriously hanging from the ceiling…a brown hair tie. This hair tie spent years dangling by an unknown, magical power. No one knew how it got there, no one knew how it managed to stay, and absolutely no one dared to remove the hair tie. Eventually custodians learned never to touch it, students placed sticky notes around the hair tie warning no one to move it, and every day everyone looked up at the ceiling to double check to make sure it was there. This may have been an ordinary-looking hair tie, but the fate of the Papillion-La Vista South Choir depended on it.

(Not so) long ago, when the hair tie was discovered to be much stronger than everyone figured it would be, Cheri Helmer-Riensche, the vocal music director, announced that the day that magic hair tie fell from the ceiling would be the year she would retire. For years, all was safe and sound within the choir until students returned after summer break to discover the hair tie was missing in action. Everyone was shocked, Riensche had no knowledge, and mass texts and messages were sent throughout current and previous choir students with the news: Riensche’s hair tie fell. No one knew what was to happen next, if she would really abide by her declaration, but everyone took a moment to consider…was Riensche retiring this year?

Senior Titanium dance captain Aaron Homme remembers the day he heard the news. “I couldn’t believe it, I thought that thing was gonna be stuck up there. But when it fell, it felt like it was a good time to fall. All I could really think was, ‘well, I guess this is it.’”

In October 2014, Riensche announced her retirement to her students and staff. Many tears were shed but everyone was motivated to try their hardest to make this year the best they could for the woman who started it all.

Of course Riensche did not base her retirement on a hair tie stuck to a ceiling. For those who don’t know her, she’s got a strong sense of humor, and she’s one to crack jokes…whether they make sense or not.

Riensche’s retirement is an award after her long run of education and success. She graduated from Wayne State with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Choral Music Education and has been teaching secondary choral education for forty years. She began her run with  three years at Randolph High School, followed by fourteen years at Seward High School, and then eleven years at Omaha Benson High School. She won Teacher of the Year Awards from Seward High School (1992) and Benson High School (2000.)

In 2003, she was one of the original teachers to begin at Papillion-La Vista South. There she began the Titan Choir and show choirs. Papio south alumni and spanish teacher Paige Clouse was one of the firsts to be in the beginning choir and Titanium show choir. Since then, Riensche took a program of 43 and grew the department into a group of over two hundred singers.

Riensche has been a part of freshman Logan Lawrence’s life even before he attended Papio South. Lawrence has watched his two older brothers learn and grow under Riensche’s guidance in the choirs and show choirs. “She’s been an inspiration not just as a teacher but watching her conduct not just me, but my brothers and other people around,” says Lawrence said.

Along with her position at Papio South, Riensche has been in the American Choral Directors Association, Nebraska Music Educators Association, Nebraska School Activities Association, and ran two terms as president of the Nebraska Choral Directors Association. She was inducted as an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy and was the first recipient of the Wayne State College “Outstanding Alumna Award for Excellence in Teaching.” She was inducted into the Nebraska Music Educators Hall of Fame in 2008 and has also won the Yale Distinguished Music Educators Award from the Yale School of Music. She was one of 48 to win the award and the only winner from the Midwest. Today this remains her most prized award.

Not only has Riensche made a big impact on the Midwest music community, but she’s made an even larger impact on the students that go through her program. Senior vocal captain Jenna Vrable  was changed for the better by being a member of the choir department. “Mrs. Riensche has been a safe haven for me personally starting with my freshman year. Although I was greatly intimidated by her, she made it possible for me to learn who I was and start to shine. I was just another shy face in the crowd as a freshman and Mrs. Riensche’s influence through the choir and show choirs really helped to give a voice to the person inside me waiting to bloom.”

Many students in the program feel the exact same way as Vrable. Most find comfort in the walls of Riensche’s office and enjoy spending time in the choir room as much as they can. The amount of students filing in and out of her office creates a very busy and sometimes chaotic atmosphere, but Riensche still manages to get work done. Not only does she teach at Papio South, but she manages two show choirs,  adjudicates for other choirs/show choirs, masters many rounds of Bejeweled, teaches at music camps in the summer, and is respected as a go-to coach throughout the Midwest choral community. She finds great opportunities for the choir, and hooks them up with incredible performances with the Omaha Symphony. This year, the Papillion-La Vista South Concert Choir sang Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Requiem with the Omaha Symphony, along with many Broadway musical numbers.

She’s taken the choir and show choirs on exciting trips to competitions held at the Corn Palace, Branson, Chicago, and Winter Park. In previous history, the choirs have placed very well in most of their competitions, and always left their audience and judges astounded by their pure, choral sound.

Most students are used to the craziness of show choir season, but this year was especially different. Senior Austen Weeks has been in Titanium for the past three years, and he wanted to make it special, “This year/season differed from the previous years for the obvious fact that it was Riensche’s last year. It was very emotional and I was proud that she saw our class through to the end. Not only was it my last year it was hers too and that’s what gave me and others the motivation to do our very best for her.”

This competition season, the three show choirs had an excellent run. Riensche is in charge of directing the JV prep show choir, Titan Express, and the varsity show choir, Titanium. This year, Titan Express placed third-runner up at Norris, second in their division at Sloan, sixth overall at Sloan, and beat their top component, Westside High School, by placing first in their division at Lewis Central. Titanium had a very competitive season and took home third runner up at the Corn Palace and Crystal Cup, second runner up at Grand Island High School, first runner up at Lewis Central, and grand champions at Norris. Along with their placement awards, Titanium also won best vocals, best choreography, and tied with Titan Express for best costumes. Most importantly, Papillion-La Vista South took home the Gary Fiscus Family Sportsmanship Award, an award in honor of Riensche’s former colleague.

The choir/show choir season came to an end at the beginning of spring break, when the choir took a ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado. Not only was it the last competition of the year, but it was Riensche’s last competition, and all the students had a blast skiing and competing one last time with their beloved teacher. “My favorite memory with Riensche just happened this year in Winter Park. When we were performing the song ‘Homeward Bound’, she started conducting and shortly after the song started she burst into tears. She cried throughout the remainder of the song and as the piece came to its end she mouthed the words ‘I love you’ to the choir…I will never forget that moment and being a part of it was one of the best moments of my life,” Weeks says.

The choir was awarded with a superior rating and placed first runner-up against a tough competition of prestigious choirs. Titanium was given a superior rating and won grand champions of the show choir division.

Now that the choral season has reached its end, students are preparing to say goodbye to their mentor, teacher, director, and friend. Senior Cody Redford says, “She understands that she’s done her work and is leaving a legacy at Papio South.”

“My legacy I hope to leave behind is one that represents pride for our school and striving to become the best that we can be. Mediocracy was never welcome in my classroom unless it was the best they could do. Building strength and trust through relationships also was a key component to build success,” says Riensche.

The director of the Millard North vocal music program, Scott Dugdale, is to be the new director of the Papillion-La Vista South vocal department. Students are excited and nervous for this new transition, but they know they will always hold Riensche in their hearts. “Next year without her, she’ll still be here in many ways,” says Redford.

Riensche is planning to enjoy her retirement with her husband, Roger Riensche, who substitutes for Papio South. They plan on doing things together that are not just related to music and education. Riensche has the opportunity to travel to China for several weeks to help build a high school music curriculum for the upper level Chinese student.

“I will continue to adjudicate and guest conduct as long as the telephone rings,” says Riensche. “And then who knows, I may actually learn to Twitter, tweet, and log-in to Facebook.”

Prepping for Prom: Prom tips 101

The days are slowly ticking by, and you know what that means….PROM. The night to remember, the night that goes down in the books as a supposed “highlight of your high school experience.” You may be a newbie getting ready to see the twinkling lights and hanging airplanes at the SAC museum, or you may be a returning student eager to jump back on the dance floor for one final high school dance, whoever you are, listen to these pros as they give their tips from their previous prom nightmares and dreams that came true.

Seniors Andrea Torres and Calem Witt expertly matching their outfits at prom 2014. (Photo by Rachel Torres)


“Your outfit for prom has to be perfect. I like to check online before I go shopping in order to get an idea of the type of dress I would like. Don’t be afraid to try things on, finding the right dress can be a lengthy process.” –Gabby Catterson, 11th

“Don’t wait until the last minute to get your dress, especially if you are planning on ordering from online. It’s nice to have extra time just in case you need to alter your dress or get a new one if you absolutely hate the one you currently have.” –Emma Martinez, 12th

“Get your dress/tux tailored as soon as you can, don’t do it last minute and have it be messed up.” –Jenna Winkler, 11th

“If you’re buying the dress at a store, make sure you find whatever is comfortable for you to dance in!” –Chelsea Palafox, 12th

“Don’t go too extreme with the tux, guys. You can be a little adventurous but not much can beat the classic black tux.” –Aaron Homme, 12th

“Always go bow-tie! Ties are for homecoming.” –Nick Bailey, 12th

“If you have a date, matching is a necessity and it will make you and your partner look very sharp.” –Benjamin Saul, 10th

“Make sure your vest matches her dress.” –Joe Fox, 12th


“When it comes to hair, you do you…but remember to stay classy.” –Jenna Winkler, 11th

“Girls, if you have a backless dress that you want to show off, find a hairdo that would look cute when it’s up! Guys, you have it a little easier. Get it up, to the side, sleek it back. Do whatever fits you.” -Chelsea Palafox, 12th

“Prom only happens once a year, so it is important that you spend a little extra time on your hair and makeup. If you don’t want to spend extra money on getting those things done professionally, don’t sweat it. I did my own hair and makeup last year for prom, and everything turned out great!” –Gabby Catterson, 11th

“Once you have your hair done, use a whole bottle of hairspray to hold it in place. Hairspray is a girl’s best friend.” –Emma Martinez, 12th

Juniors Gabby Catterson and Rachael Packard styling their hair just right with their gowns. (Courtesy photos)


“I personally believe that dinner is super important for prom. It’s a nice get-together before the dance and it can relieve stress and make for a better night. Wearing a suit all day can honestly be exhausting and there is nothing better than having a fancy dinner with your friends. Whether as a group or with a partner, dinner is a must!” –Benjamin Saul, 10th

“People’s tastes can be so different, it is important to choose a place that everyone will enjoy. If it is possible, make reservations, especially for large parties.” –Gabby Catterson, 11th

“Take pictures before you stuff yourself with food!” –Caitlyn Crowe, 11th

“Make dinner fun but not too crazy. Spend a little money on a fancy restaurant but don’t break your bank doing it.” –Nick Bailey, 12th

“Don’t get spaghetti. It ended up all over my dress before we even got to the dance.” –Jenna Winkler, 11th

“When going out to eat with your date or with your group of friends, make sure not to stuff yourself! You want to be able to have room to dance! Also guys, be generous and pay for your date!” –Chelsea Palafox, 12th

“Dinner needs to be nice, guys, take her to her favorite restaurant. Its your job to keep her happy tonight, and starting off with her favorite place is a good idea.” –Aaron Homme, 12th

“Make sure you don’t have food in your teeth after you’re done eating.” –Emma Martinez, 12th


“The music at prom may not always be the best, but this is either your first prom or your last, or your second or third! Make your high school prom experience a blast! Dance it up! When there is a song you don’t like, you could take your party over to the drink stand and refresh yourself up!” –Chelsea Palafox, 12th

“Dancing is hard and everyone sucks at it, so don’t be afraid of dancing.” –Nick Bailey, 12th

“Don’t request country music.” –Joe Fox, 12th

“I would suggest wearing comfortable shoes to prom. Take pictures in your nice 6” heels and then take them off! Or just take the heels off once you get there. Dancing + heels = painful outcome.” –Emma Martinez, 12th

“You can make any situation fun if you want to.” –Gabby Catterson, 11th

“The music can be a really good hit and definitely set the mood for the next dance. Whether slow or fast you should take your partner or group of friends and have a good time.” –Benjamin Saul, 10th


“It can sometimes be difficult to decide what to do after prom. Fortunately, our school sponsors post prom, a fun and safe way to spend your night. This year they are holding it at the Amazing Pizza Machine. I recently went there in order to get a feel for how post prom will be, and I had a blast! But, no matter what you do, choose something that you will enjoy, but be responsible!” –Gabby Catterson, 11th

“The Amazing Pizza Machine is way cooler than the school gym and there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. Food is why I go to post prom.” –Emma Martinez, 12th

“Now, although prom is fun, there is nothing more exciting than post prom, its dressed down and everyone is there to party. Its safe and enjoyable and starts late which means you yourself don’t have to host a party. There is literally nothing greater than ending your prom night with post prom and a few friends. It is something you must attend!” –Benjamin Saul, 10th

“Make sure your parents know your post prom plan and don’t make them worry.” –Jenna Winkler, 11th

“If post prom isn’t an option for you, have a girls night or guys night! But make sure you be careful with what you do after prom. Be safe!” –Chelsea Palafox, 12th


“Let yourself have fun, it’s a great time. Last year, I was kind of hesitant to be super social, but you gotta go out and dance and have a great time.” –Aaron Homme, 12th

“Put your name in your shoes! Last year, mine got mixed up and I ended up with shoes that didn’t fit. Please don’t let that happen to you!” –Gabby Catterson, 11th

“Make sure you take a shower so you smell fresh and hang out with your closest friends.” –Joe Fox, 12th

Senior Noah Thornton posing in front of his mom, Papio South english teacher Ann Thornton, at last year’s prom. (Courtesy photos)

“Don’t spend your time in the bathroom trying to make sure your make up looks presentable…and don’t be that person sitting at a table on your phone the whole night!” –Chelsea Palafox, 12th

“Don’t forget to drink lots of water and avoid the punch…No one wants a punch stain all over their face like a mustache, and punch breath is not pleasant.” –Emma Martinez, 12th

“The most important thing to remember during prom is a package of mint gum and some extra money. You never know what kind of exciting things will happen on prom night. From late night movies to the first kiss, you must stay classy and fresh.”–Benjamin Saul, 10th

“Don’t freak and stress yourself out.” –Jenna Winkler, 11th

“Have fun…you only get two of these.” –Nick Bailey, 12th


Students’ award-winning art goes on display


Gold and Silver awards are not usually given out for art, but the scholastic art and writing awards do just that. Artists from high schools all over Nebraska submit works to be judged. The judges receive thousands of submissions and have to narrow them down to a few hundred.

Our school was awarded 28 awards and 15 individual students were recognized. All of the artwork is on display in the Omaha TAC building downtown. The building is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00PM and is open on Saturday from 8:00 to 12:00. The artwork will be on display from February 23rd to March 31st. Support your fellow students by visiting the display!

The students receiving the awards are ecstatic. “I was really excited and couldn’t believe that I had won anything,” junior Mariah Allen said.

Receiving this award is no small honor, and the students know that. “This award means potential scholarships and is looked very highly upon in the art world,” Senior Raina Watson said. “Scholastic art award alumni have done fantastic things and are role models for sure.”

The reward of the award is a great motivator, but it takes a lot to put something as personal as artwork up for judgment. “I was not confident in my painting and I wasn’t sure I would get an award,” Junior Anna Vu said. “When I got the gold key, it gave me more confidence in my art and talents.”

A lot of work goes into creating these pieces, but submitting the art is quite a task too. “We at the school pick a few, we photo them and submit a digital copy,” Art teacher Mary Todero said. “We are notified and get them ready for display and have to take them down to the Omaha TAC building.”

Be sure to check out the display at the TAC building this weekend and honor all of the hard work done by the Papillion-La Vista south art department.