When we first established the Ben Smiles Memorial Foundation and then I started thinking about the Ben’s Adventures book series, I knew that I wanted to give back, honor and support those that supported us so fervently during Ben’s life. The new book in the series “Under The Big Top!” is dedicated to Early Childhood teachers since my Benjamin had such a wonderful team of educators that invested in him and accepted him and differentiated care to meet ALL of his many needs. They saw him as a little boy first who needed to (and could!) learn. He grew so much during that year of Preschool.
But I also wanted to do something else. I was excited to launch the new Ben’s Teacher Feature series - this is a weekly series highlighting a special teacher each week. During the month of May, I asked parents to nominate their favorite teacher. From the teachers nominated in May, a winner was selected to receive Ben’s Classroom Adventure Pack which is a stock of books, bookmarks, activity sheets, posters and an classroom author visit in the fall. And then through the summer, all teachers will be featured in a weekly blog post.
I’m excited to share the first Teacher to be Featured (and the winner of the Adventure Pack) is …. April Schippers, first grade teacher at Davis Primary in St Charles. She was nominated by Sarah Mowat. According to Sarah, Mrs. Schippers “nurtures the children's adventurous spirits and vivid imaginations with poetry slams and mystery characters to be discovered so the children develop a love of learning and supportive teamwork.” In addition she “creates a safe, homey and fun environment to learn in with cozy reading spaces, lamp lighting, furry reading buddies and incredible wall displays.” And in her spare time, she runs a nonprofit initiative called Camp Out For Cancer with her family to give gifts to kids fighting cancer!
I’m thrilled to introduce you to APRIL SCHIPPERS!
1. Hi April! How long have you been teaching?
I just finished my 18th year of teaching…time flies when you are having fun! Sixteen of those years have been in St. Charles School District 303.
2. Why did you want to be a teacher?
School was not very easy for me growing up. I had to work hard and put in a lot of hours studying to get by with C’s and an occasional B. I really did not even see college in my future when I was growing up. Neither of my parents went to college and although they hoped us kids would go, it wasn’t really something that I envisioned for myself. I am sure that many have no idea why I would choose this career path. Considering that school was so hard, I am sure that many (myself included at times) wondered why I would want to go teach every day. I had some teachers that took the time to really understand me and help me. It was these teachers that left lasting impacts on my life and made me want to follow down their same path.
3. What do you love most about teaching? Or how rewarding is it?
There are so many things to love about teaching. First and foremost are the kids! It is a privilege to be able to spend a brief moment in the lives of so many kids. Seeing their faces when they reach that “Aha” moment is priceless. I also love that each and every day is different and new. Yes, there are routines and structures that are put in place, but each read aloud, each lesson, each activity can lead to so many different paths and thinking. Most days you just have to follow their lead and know that it will lead to great things. It’s quite amazing to see young minds at work.
4. What is the hardest part about being a teacher?
The hardest part is equally the kids! Teachers carry a huge responsibility and spend just nine short months with a group of very diverse students and do whatever you can to get to know them individually to ensure that they grow academically, socially, and emotionally. At times, we often question if what we are doing is working or is it enough, but at the end of each year or even better when they grow up and start careers of their own you can finally breathe a little easier and see that their hard work and your guidance has paid off.
5. Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? Are you married with children? Do you have pets?
I grew up in Chicago and attended St. Eugene Catholic School which is where I actually began my teaching career as well. I moved to Montgomery around 12 years ago. I am married to my husband Pat and we have three kids, Isaac who is 13 and about to be a freshman at Oswego High School, Ivy who is 12 and going into 8th grade, and Eli who just turned 5 and will start kindergarten in the fall. We also have a bulldog named Harley!
6. What do you like to do for fun?
My family runs a non-profit organization called Camp Out From Cancer that provides care packages to children with cancer. So much of my free time is spent doing things for COFC. I also like to go out to eat with family, shop (a lot), and go on small weekend trips with my girlfriends. My students would all say that I love to take naps because I do! Ever since I was little I would squeeze in a nap whenever I could get the chance.
Congratulations, April! And thank you for the very important work that you do.
To submit your own favorite teacher to be featured, click here.
To learn more about the Ben’s Adventures children’s books, click here.