Renae Schaffner talks about teaching 2014.04.23

Morenci teacher Renae (Merillat) Schaffner was honored recently as one of Morenci's Distinguished Alumni. She spoke that night about her surprise at being chosen for the award and also about what she does as a teacher.

By Renae Schaffner

A year ago, my uncle Ron was up here being recognized and I can remember thinking, “Yeah, good selection.” He’s accomplished a lot as an educator. It’s no secret that a lot of his effort and hard work is what laid the foundation for a lot of the good that we have now and for the expectations that as staff members, we have in our leadership; accomplishments definitely worthy of recognition. And I can specifically remember thinking, “I’m glad I have just been content in my little role of teacher and will never have to be up there [at the podium] doing that!” In general, we have a lot of graduates doing amazing things all over the world and it leads me back to the question of “What have I done by comparison?”

I don’t know if this will answer any questions, but I thought I would just share with you what I do every day and what I love about my decision to make Morenci my career and home.

First of all, I do what I love. I am passionate about teaching, coaching, this district, and all my students; so much so, that I owe my husband, Mitch, and my parents a big thank you/apology, because I am a workaholic. I am here all the time and there is no question that there are more times than not, that this place has been placed above family. So thank you for your support and sacrifice.

I love the staff I work with and knowing in the morning that when I walk through those doors, there are going to be a lot of laughs with good people.

I love walking the halls in the morning and saying good morning to as many students as I can. I love that Destiny (an 8th grader) has made it her mission to beat me every morning in saying it.  

I love that I have the opportunity to tell a sixth grader that his smile is contagious and he literally makes me smile every day. I don’t know him, but you should see this kid, ALWAYS smiling and it does make me smile every day.

I love doing lunch supervision and chatting with as many students as possible while they empty their trays or asking them if they are “living the dream” because I am. I like to sit with them at lunch and ask how their day is going or ask why they seem sad. Or to simply make them annoyed that a teacher is sitting with them because of course that is not cool.

I love asking our musicians, artists, athletes, technology wizards, hunters, fishermen, writers, etc., about their latest work, catch, kill, win or whatever it may be that is important to them that day.

And I love that on days that I am struggling, or just having a tough day, that I can stand in front of my kids and without a doubt, they can make me laugh and make me forget about the stress of that particular day.

I am so fortunate to do what I do and to get to do it in such a special place with such special people. I DON’T do any of this for the state, I don’t do it because benchmarks and data say I should. I don’t do it because of the pressure of test scores and stringent teacher evaluations. Because quite frankly, I don’t think I get evaluated on any of those things nor are there benchmarks about showing an interest in our students as people. But I care about making sure a kid smiles, feels important, or can hopefully turn a bad day into a good one, if only for a moment.

We live in a time where public education and public education teachers are subject to much criticism and scrutiny, so it is so reassuring to me to know that the people who matter the most—our students—recognize what we do here every day, and think that it is worthy of being recognized as distinguished.

So to the students who assisted in this selection process, I throw you a ginormous thank you! This means far more to me knowing that you, the people I do this for, had a voice in this.