Kristen Schroeder still remembers two teachers who inspired her to take on a career in education, which has led her to becoming a middle school principal in Homer Glen and winning a statewide award.
One of those teachers was Roy Coleman, her physics teacher at Morgan Park High School in Chicago, who “brought learning to life” and made science a subject that “had all the answers for me,” Schroeder said.
“He just did some wonderful things and got me engaged in thinking about the future,” Schroeder said.
The other was Barbara Brown, who taught Schroeder when she was in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. Schroeder said there were some things in school she was nervous about, but Brown helped her to become a better student.
“She made me face my fears and help me to push myself and to challenge myself,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said both were instrumental figures in her life, even when she decided to go to college so she could become an educator herself.
“I kept in touch with them for a long time,” she said.
Throughout Schroeder’s career in public education, she has sought to have an influence on students similar to the influence Coleman and Brown had on her.
She said the most amazing part of being a teacher is probably helping students achieve success in their education, especially for those who may not believe they are capable of success.
“It’s those ‘Aha!’ moments when the lightbulb goes on, or when a student is little bit nervous and doesn’t want to try something and then does and finds success,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder now is completing her 11th year as principal for Hadley Middle School in Homer Glen. Before then, she was an assistant principal at Homer Junior High School and also a teacher for Chicago Public Schools for 12 years.
This year, Schroeder was among many recipients of the meritorious service award by the Illinois State Board of Education. She was nominated by staff and parents for the award.
“It’s in regards to working with families and working with staff and helping students to succeed and go that extra mile,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said the field of education is always changing, and educators have to figure out how to keep students prepared.
“You are preparing them for a future that we are not yet experiencing,” Schroeder said.
For educators, it’s not always about helping students learn how to use new technologies but also helping them to feel safe and comfortable enough to want to come to school, learn to take risks and learn new things.
“We’re not only helping students to learn and grow academically but [also to] learn and to grow socially and helping them to prepare themselves for the future so they can be successful lifelong learners,” Schroeder said.
One moment Schroeder recalls fondly from her time as a student at Morgan Park High School was when Mae Jemison came to the school to say Coleman was going to be absent. Jemison is the first Black woman to fly into space.
Schroeder said Coleman had inspired Jemison to become an astronaut, and he was going to the shuttle launch to watch her.
“I just thought that was so amazing,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said it’s always exciting when students return to their former schools to tell current students about their lives.
“It’s just truly amazing to see where those little kids have gone to once they’ve grown up because they’ve continued that love of learning,” Schroeder said.