Bureau Valley has always been home for junior high teacher Tracey Schoff

After starting as an aid, Schoff says she continued to feel a call toward education

Tracey Schoff, a teacher at Bureau Valley Junior High School, smiles while teaching a class on Thursday, April 6, 2023.

Bureau Valley Junior High teacher Tracey Schoff has always called Bureau Valley her home. Being born and raised in Walnut and going through the Walnut School District, Schoff later sent her own kids to BV.

After beginning her career in education as an aid in BV for a few years, she decided to further explore her interest and pursued a full-time teaching degree. This decision has now led to a 17-year career teaching kids in BV, where she once was a student.

“I discovered that I just really loved working with the students,” Schoff said. “So I decided to go back to school to teach. I was already in the district and just drove back and forth from school.”

Shortly following her graduation, Schoff had her daughter when a part-time math position opened up the former BV-North School. Schoff took the role and once again got started in the Bureau Valley School District, a place she has enjoyed working.

“I’ve always been a part of this community,” Schoff said. “It’s where I started and I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”

That role eventually evolved into a math and social studies position and then a full-time role teaching social studies at the junior high level.

While Schoff didn’t immediately recognize teaching as her professional calling, when taking compatibility and skills tests growing up, she knew that she would enjoy working with kids in some capacity.

“I would tell myself that I’m going to be in business or something like that and so I tried to stay away from it,” Schoff said. “Then I just got pulled back because that’s what I love and where I feel my gift is.”

Tracey Schoff, a teacher at Bureau Valley Junior High School, smiles while teaching students Layne Foster and Alex Gallardo on Thursday, April 6, 2023.

Schoff originally gained experience working for all different ages of students, from her beginnings as an aid for kindergarteners before finding a true home working at the junior high level.

“It’s the relationships that you have with the junior high kids,” Schoff said. “Some teachers might hate junior high, but I just feel more comfortable with them and can build relationships with them.”

While academics obviously play a huge role in her position, Schoff truly values working alongside the students in attempts to teach them the content and skills that they will continue to use moving forward.

Schoff said that one of her main goals is to have her students wanting to learn and continue to be lifelong learners once they are finished with their formal education.

“I want my students to know that they are valued and I want them to find their potential,” Schoff said. “I want them to know that people care about them. That’s one of my biggest goals is to have that positive influence on them and to validate each of my students so they leave junior high knowing their worth.”

Schoff’s message of being a lifelong learner is one that she has carried with herself during her own professional career, stating that she has had to continue to develop her own skills as an educator.

This also means identifying the specific needs of individual students and in some cases creating new ways to help them grasp a specific topic or lesson.

“It’s definitely a humbling career,” Schoff said. “You think you’ve got it down and then all of a sudden, the next day there’s a new situation. I know that I’ve got to keep learning new strategies, classroom management and even content.”

Schoff said she believes that every student is different, every class is different and every school year brings a new set of challenges that teachers need to adapt to overcome.

Those words rung true as Schoff, among countless educators around the world, had to adjust how they performed their jobs during the pandemic.

“We had to step out of our comfort zones and find new strategies to reach those kids at home,” Schoff said. “Now we can use a lot of what we learned moving forward.”

Schoff said that her class, and many others, have come out of the pandemic with an increase in the amount of technology used to effectively educated students.

One adjustment Schoff’s class made was to change how they would create their living wax museum projects. Before the pandemic, students would dress up as historical figures and create a scene and invite members of the public to view them.

Using technology, the class since has been able to create the scenes using a green screen to place the historical actors into their appropriate time periods.

“We’ve done things like that,” Schoff said. “They’ve been really fun and innovative and I think it’s just made everyone learn a little bit more.”

Outside of her individual classroom, Schoff has been involved in the district as a mentor teacher, cheer coach, student council sponsor and a robotics coach.

These extracurriculars have helped Schoff’s career passion grow, she said. While she enjoys the school district she works for and the teachers and faculty with whom she works; it’s the students that have kept her doing what she loves, Schoff said.

“It’s the kids that need me,” Schoff said. “I know that they need stability, they need somebody in here that cares about them and sometimes they just really need to see a smile when they come in the classroom everyday.”

Tracey Schoff, a teacher at Bureau Valley Junior High School, smiles while teaching students on Thursday, April 6, 2023.