Lifelong Learning Inspires Educator to Give Back

Janet Wendland grew up in Arapahoe, Nebraska, and attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where she majored in German and English. After teaching high school, Janet spent a summer in Germany on a Fulbright scholarship and then continued her education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, receiving a master’s degree in education. She was then recruited by a school supplies company and began a career in international sales in the education market. Janet, a Burnett Society member, established a planned gift to provide study abroad opportunities for UNK students.

What was the first job you ever had?

In high school during the summers, I helped teach swimming lessons at our local pool and also served up ice cream at the Dairy Queen. Both jobs helped teach me to have good humor and patience when serving others, and those skills have helped in all my dealings with others.

After graduation from UNK, my first job was teaching German and English in a high school, and I know I learned more about teaching than I taught in those years. I was very thankful to have the principal and fellow teachers to mentor me and help me hone my skills.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

I have received great advice from my parents, especially about being true to your own authentic self and values and being respectful of others, whether or not you agree with them.

I also have a daily calendar that gives a proverb each day from Africa, and I appreciate those snippets that are unique but practical advice. Today’s proverb from Kenya is: “One does not regret having helped another.” Yesterday’s was: “Do not separate your mind from your tongue.”

Who has influenced your life for good?

My family, friends, teachers, ministers to name a few, and often strangers who show me a behavior that I should emulate. I like the philosophy of Leo Buscaglia, who said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Why do you plan to leave a gift to the foundation?

Having been raised in the small town of Arapahoe, Nebraska, by loving parents and a community that valued education, it is easy to understand why I decided to make a promise of funds to help others coming after me. I am very grateful for the wealth of opportunities my education has afforded me and know this gift will help others achieve their dreams. My travels around the world also taught me how interconnected and interdependent we all are and helped me understand and appreciate my place in the world. My gratitude and experiences help explain why I have committed to helping others. Plus, the proverb says: “One does not regret having helped another!” This gift from me is also to me.