My Public School Life

Today was my last official day of school, not just for 2014, but for the rest of my life!  I have given 25 years of my life to educate the students in the great state of Missouri and I have been so grateful for the opportunity to do what I love. 

Selfie outside of my last school
I did my student teaching with Willie Strickland at Lee School in Columbia in 1989.  Mrs. Strickland made me learn the song "We Shall Overcome" before I could start teaching the class!  I loved Mrs. Strickland.  Even though she was a different teacher than I was, she embraced my style and encouraged Dr. Ron Schlimme to hire me when it became apparent that there would be a need for two third grade classrooms at Lee.

I started in Columbia Public Schools in 1989 at Lee Elementary School after graduating from Columbia College with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education.  I taught third grade for three years and then was switched to sixth grade.  I was scared to go to the sixth grade but it probably was one of my most favorite years.  I was the Young Astronaut advisor at Lee and a group of students and I went to Washington, D.C. to participate in a conference.  Lee was an arts integrated school and I loved working with my art teacher and music teacher in my classroom.  I was initiated into Delta Kappa Gamma while teaching in Columbia.

Enlarge to see my first school picture!

In 1993 we moved to Jefferson City and I was hired to teach fourth grade at West School.  I taught fourth grade, fourth/fifth grade and fifth grade while there.  I started a Book Club for teachers with the encouragement of my principal, Marcia Heberle.  The Book Club is still meeting today!  This was my longest run in a single building and I built some wonderful teacher friendships that still last today and family relationships where I had all or nearly all the kids in the family; Kiekhaefers, Wildings, Newmans, and others.  I know I was influential in creating another teacher in one of my students, which is an honor I hold dear to my heart.  During this time I was so fortunate to become a National Board Certified Teacher, a STARR teacher (and became friends for life with my co STARRS), MSTA President (district level), Teacher of the Year finalist and Chair of the Professional Development Committee.  As a teacher I was able to work with DESE on writing for the MAP test in Language Arts and Math, and worked with State Certification on the new teacher certification path.  I was initiated Alpha Delta Kappa education sorority.  I earned my Masters Degree from Lincoln University in 2000 in The Elementary Principalship. This was such a rewarding part of my career.  Working with students, watching them grow, seeing the profession take off!

Such a typical teaching outfit!!  This is at a MSTA conference at the Lake, around 1996
In 2002 I decided to become a principal at South Callaway Schools.  It was a difficult road but I had a wonderful administrative team and met one of my lifelong friends there. It was the first time to supervise support staff and I was so lucky to have such wonderful secretaries and custodians. Those first years as an administrator are very lonely and for someone who was used to collaborating with the great teachers at West, it was very hard to give up.  I was fortunate to have hard working teachers who were dedicated to their students in both buildings.  South Callaway Schools paid for my Educational Specialist degree from Lincoln University where I graduated from in 2007.

Mrs. Steffes as Zero the Hero
2007 opened up an opportunity to become a principal at a larger school district, so I joined up with Moniteau County R-1 Schools.  Such a large staff!  I had such a good time working with an assistant principal and wonderful secretaries!  The teachers were a hard working staff and we made great strides in student achievement.  My dad passed away from cancer during my first year.  In 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the staff was instrumental in helping me recover from several surgeries.  During that year my father-in-law and uncle passed away and in January of 2010 Ashley was diagnosed with Crohns.  Such a difficult time in my personal life!  I was able to begin my doctorate degree in 2010 at Saint Louis University.  My cohort group was a lifesaver and godsend to me during this time.  In 2012 it was time for me to leave California and with this timing, Bob and I decided to pursue looking at life in the St. Louis area.  It had been a life long dream to live in St. Louis and here was the opportunity.

Go Pintos!
I was hired by the Wright City School District in 2012 and served as the principal of East Elementary School, which was a K-1 building.  What a great experience!  Completing my years of service with our youngest students was a joy for me. I finished my doctorate degree and graduated in 2013 with a Educational Leadership degree.  I learned so much while at Wright City:  Balridge Continuous Improvement, Leadership Academy, and superb strategic planning.  I met and worked with a wonderful support staff and hard working and dedicated teachers.

As I ready to move into a career in Professional Development, I am eager to use my knowledge and expertise in helping those in Missouri see what dedicated teachers can do when given the tools to be successful in the classroom.  I am looking forward to serving the University of Missouri and the Heart of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center doing just that.
Terri Steffes
Terri Steffes

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