A 2.5-hour conversation with my aunt sparked this well-deserved nomination. I am a future educator, student teaching at a middle school right now. She has worked at a middle school for five years, working with their population that tends to have more struggles than the mainstream population. After my first week of student teaching, I messaged her asking if we could have a socially distanced conversation about middle school because I was bursting with excitement for my newly discovered passion for middle school. I drove over there, and we talked for an hour and a half outside, in the frigid Wisconsin weather, until our toes were frozen, and we decided to go inside and continue our socially distanced conversation there for another hour. I have always looked up to my aunt for her “spunk.” She might remind you of Buddy the Elf at times, not afraid to sing Christmas Carols at the type of her lungs in a store aisle. She’ll dance out of the blue and snort until she chokes. She doesn’t care what other people think, and she just does what makes her and the people around her happy. During our conversation, she had the courage to be vulnerable and share with me some of the struggles she had in her childhood, things I had never known about. Those struggles, while awful for any child to go through, were, what I think, made her who she is – a school professional, aunt, mother, friend, and person that changes lives. She makes it her goal every year to learn all 250 names of every single student in the grade she works with, even the ones not on her caseload. How many people would make that a goal, let alone achieve it like she does? I’ll tell you. Very few. A student of hers cited her as the most impactful person in their life because she talked to them at lunch. That’s what she does. She reaches out a hand, walks out on a limb, and tries to connect with every student, with a special eye out for those that need it most, those that need someone like she needed when she was a kid. She will embarrass the heck out of herself doing it if she needs to, just to crack a tiny glimpse of a small smile for a kid that has needed a smile for a very long time. I picture her dancing down the hallway, making funny faces, wearing a halo, sprinkling her magic sparkle on students as she goes. She truly has a gift. A very rare gift. A zest for life that can’t help but make those around her better, and a zest for students. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that she has been the turning point in several students’ lives. And by sharing herself and her story with others, she inspires. She multiplies the number of people that are believers, changers, lovers, nurturers. I’ll tell ya she inspires the crap out of me. She fuels my drive to impact my future students’ lives. Have you seen those graphics of how COVID spreads? Like one person is positive and exposes a few people, and a couple of those people become positive, and then they expose more people, and some of those people become positive, and it grows and grows and grows. While that graphic can be helpful in illustrating the COVID spread, I think that graphic was really made for my aunt. For the impact, she has in this world, by simply striving to make someone’s day a little bit better, for all of the people that are graced by her presence. She is the definition of AMAZING.
– Hallie Schmeling, Niece/Future Educator