April in Glenwood: How one person can change your life
This week in Indiana, in my mother’s hometown, a principal lost her life shielding children from an oncoming bus that had jumped a curb in a freak accident.
The late educator, Susan Jordan, an elementary school principal for 22 years, pushed kids from impending harm before she and two 10-year-olds were struck.
In a flash of a few seconds, the students at Amy Beverland Elementary School, especially those at the scene, received a difficult lesson on the meaning of sacrifice.
And what makes a hero.
From this untimely loss of their principal, the school’s students are already witnessing the depth of her legacy. Whether it was receiving a four-star, “A” rating from the Indiana Department of Education to having a positive impact on thousands of kids’ lives, Susan Jordan’s impact is shared throughout the community as they come together to grieve and cope.
Such dedication and selflessness in the education of our children is what every parent can hope for as they send kids into the world. I know there are many educators just like Susan Jordan who would put their lives on the line for their kids.
One teacher who changed my life may not even know she had such an impact.
After hearing stories of Susan Jordan’s legacy, and watching CNN’s special and online videos titled, “The Person Who Changed My Life” (#MyLifeChanger), I’ve been thinking about my fifth-grade teacher, Nadine Shepler, or “Mrs. Shepler” as we all knew her. She was the kind of educator I needed at that age. She noticed my strengths and talents at a young age, which definitely involved reading books and writing stories. She encouraged me to be a reading tutor for the first-graders at our school. She took the time to ask about my interests and learn about my personality, which at the time was bordering on shy. She made me the class monitor, which always takes some confidence, important for young girls.
And a bit of trust from your classmates.
Mrs. Shepler’s daughter, Susie, was an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader. At that time, I was heading full blast into the world of middle school. I had big aspirations to one day cheer at football and basketball games. Looking back, those were pipe dreams, but I was never discouraged from having such talent. She encouraged me to try out for the sixth-grade cheerleading squad, which I unfortunately failed miserably. I couldn’t do the splits to save my life. And I don’t exactly have the kind of voice that carries throughout a gym.
The microphone has always been my friend in stand-up.
I was still not discouraged. Mrs. Shepler’s encouragement helped build my self-esteem during an important phase in my pre-adolescent development. She was kind and patient. She even tried to help coach me when I tried out for seventh-grade cheerleading — also a failed attempt. I wouldn’t be able to do those splits until I surprisingly pulled them off during one of my burlesque tap dance routines 30 years later. I was as shocked as anyone when it happened.
In short, never give up.
Instead of cheerleading, I ran for student council and was voted in as treasurer. I wrote for the school yearbook, an activity she encouraged me to do as early as age 10. In high school, I also served as the co-captain of the mat maids, aka wrestling cheerleaders, a trend that’s not quite as popular as it seemed to be back in the ’80s.
Mrs. Shepler was kind enough to share the cheerleading poster-making materials and her experience of how to best show our team spirit with the entire school. We decorated the halls and wrestlers’ lockers before matches and learned to keep score during tournaments. We helped roll mats after meets and distributed medals to the winners.
We had spirit, and we didn’t even need to know how to do the splits.
In the spirit of CNN’s “The Person Who Changed My Life” web series and the #MyLifeChanger social media campaign, I would nominate Mrs. Shepler, my favorite teacher and mentor. She’s still teaching fifth grade and influencing kids. I remember hugging her tight when I left her class on that last day of school.
I hope to do that again when she retires.
Like Susan Jordan, Mrs. Shepler has dedicated her life to teaching and education. She will always be a person who changed my life, and likely many others. She boosted my confidence when I felt inadequate and believed in me when I hadn’t quite realized my potential.
And she’ll always be one of my most vocal cheerleaders.
April E. Clark sends love and light to the Amy Beverland Elementary School and friends and family of Susan Jordan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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