Teachers of LSE: Paula Yunge


Lily Hefner, Social Media Coordinator

One word to describe Paula Yunge, tenacious. Behind all the giggles and clumsiness is a hardworking sincere teacher who becomes emotionally invested and dedicated to every student she teaches. Regardless of where she is or what kind of students she is teaching, Yunge spends a lot time time thinking of her kids and making sure they get the most out of knowing her. From the very beginning it has been about finding herself in new places and learning all the new things they have to teach her.

Yunge had a lively childhood filled with sightseeing and adventures. Being the daughter of two immigrants from Santiago, Chile, Yunge has seen all kinds of cultures and different ways to live. She was born in Chile and lived there until the age of four when she moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil. There, she had to learn Portuguese in school, while speaking Spanish at home. Language has been a huge part of her life and as she set out into the real world, she had to face the challenges that come with chasing a dream.  

In her own neighborhood growing up they found a community, an “adopted family” of sorts, which consisted of Spanish speakers from all over South America.  This Spanish speaking family had members ranging from Argentina, Uruguay and even her home country, Chile. The connections she makes are what make her feel complete. 

One connection that was especially strong was the bond she had with her mother. Her mother always pushed her outside of her comfort zone and wanted her to be her best. At age 19, Yunge’s mom passed away after years of being sick. In looking back she remembers her favorite memory of all time.   

“The one I think about all the time,” Yunge said, “is me walking along the beach with my mom. We would hold hands and walk, and that was our last vacation together before she passed away.”

In addition to having a sister and two nieces to gush over, Yunge has two daughters of her own, Natalia and Mariana, and of course her dog, Yogi. Natalia lives here in Lincoln, and Mariana is going to college in New York. Her daughters bring her much joy and she is so happy with their accomplishments.

”I’m most proud of my daughters. They are just really sweet you know, and I enjoy that so much and they’re just good people. I am very proud of who they are becoming,” Yunge said.

When she was young she dreamed of being a teacher. She would have friends over and teach her dolls, which were lined up on the bed. Her father brought home white board paper for her closet and she would spend days teaching the dolls English, Art and Portuguese. As time went on, Yunge ended up failing her 7th grade year of school. In her school in Brazil, if you failed one class you had to complete the whole year over again. 

“The first time I ever earned an A was at UNL when I went to college in my third language,” Yunge said.

 Having to stay an extra year taught Yunge a lesson and put into perspective how much work she should be putting into school. She focused on looking for better friends and making sure she was on the right path. 

At the end of high school, Yunge thought about what her future in school would look like. In Beatrice was living Yunge’s uncle working at a car dealership. Her older sister had gone to Nebraska previously to do an extra semester and finish her high school career in America. She followed in her footsteps, taking that extra semester and ended up wanting to go to college in Lincoln.

Throughout her education, Yunge was fascinated by psychology, and this led her to considering becoming a school counselor. However, after graduating from UNL, Yunge went on to pursue a career in teaching. Yunge has seen it all from English Language Learners (ELL), to the International Baccalaureate program, to online classes and even private school in New York for the rich and famous. Language has been a way for Yunge to make sense of the world. 

“Language is important because it’s about opening your horizons to new experiences you might not be able to learn. That’s our way of getting to experience different things and gaining better intercultural understanding,” Yunge said. 

She believes that language classes spark interest in students to travel the world and develop new learning pathways. Yunge has a special love for the mountains and other places in the country, yet Lincoln won over her heart mainly for our public education system. She sees that teachers here are valued and she feels that everyone has a right to the same education. 

After all that, she began subbing in Lincoln and was introduced into the Southeast community. She fell in love.

“In subbing everywhere I felt just a welcome here it was such a good experience and so I wanted to be here,” Yunge said. An opportunity came up to be a Spanish teacher here and she jumped on it.

Outside of her career path, Yunge’s adventurous side has taken her all over the states and South America. Her favorite part of seeing new places is getting to meet the new people in the community. 

“The sense of community, that peace, the no technology. [The fact that] you can just be. I love that,” Yunge said, talking about her best adventure yet to Constantin Stere, a very small town in Northeast Brazil. In the future, she hopes to escape the cold Nebraska winter to sunny Mexico.

Yunge and Social Studies teacher, David Peters, have been dating since August of 2015. They met at the local camping grounds at Wagon Train Lake. Their tents were right across from each other and one morning Peters asked for some allergy medicine in exchange for two Colorado peaches. They began talking and even kept up a long distance relationship while Yunge was teaching in New York. These days they take their camping trips together.

Paula Yunge has been around the world, finally finding her home in the Southeast halls. From growing up in Brazil to finding her way to Lincoln, Nebraska to pursue her dream, Yunge has certainly come a long way.