Caught in the 'ah-hah' moment

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Sunday, January 20, 2008
— Teacher Jean Schollmeier once applied for a job in administration. But she wasn’t sure she wanted it.

Then one day in class, a boy stood up and exclaimed: “Mrs. Schollmeier, I get it!”

She withdrew her application that very day.

The “ah-hah!” moment is one of the most satisfying for a teacher, and it kept Schollmeier going through 35 years in Janesville schools, mostly in grades 5 and 6.

In the six years leading up to her retirement last spring, she was a resource teacher for gifted and talented students.

The Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted named her Outstanding Elementary Educator for 2007.

Jennifer Fanning, who started the Janesville School District’s Math 24 tournament with Schollmeier, calls her colleague “an inspiration.”

“She really cares, truly, about children, Fanning said. “… Jean goes well above and beyond what an ordinary teacher would do. She puts in so much time and effort. She freely gives of herself, her time, financially, and her emotional support to others, too.”

Schollmeier helped write district curriculum over the years. Her work continues to influence teachers all over the district.

She saw a need one year to break down a huge curriculum document into something teachers actually would read. So she wrote “Math in a Nutshell” for one of the grades.

Her boss liked it so much, he asked her to do the same for all of the grades.

She was a whiz in the classroom as well.

“I’ve never seen Jean ever raise her voice, ever,” Fanning said. “She has just a loving, nurturing way with kids. She just has that magic about her, and the kids just wanted to work with her.”

Schollmeier said teachers must understand that children come to them from differing backgrounds—from “Leave it to Beaver” to abusive households and everything in between.

“I always thought that 99 percent of the discipline problems in your classroom could be taken care of by just knowing the kids and interacting with the kids,” she said.

The Janesville High School grad decided early in life to be a teacher.

She never expected to return to her hometown after college. But jobs were scarce, so she said yes when Janesville offered. She never left.

“I’ve never regretted it at all,” she said.

Not only is Schollmeier acknowledged as a masterful teacher, she has been involved in her church and community, as well.

In retirement, she’s keeping busy by helping with Meals on Wheels, the Wilson School Breakfast Club and Relay for Life.

One of her joys at First Congregational Church is to play the bells. She’s also president-elect of the church board.

When Schollmeier retired last spring, she brought out her supplies, games, books, bulletin board materials and other useful teacher stuff and displayed it at the schools at which she worked.

She asked her fellow teachers to take what they wanted and to pay what they thought it was worth. Make the checks out to ECHO, she said. She ended up with $1,340 for the local charity.

The act was typical for her: It involved a great idea, involvement in the world beyond school walls and caring for others.

Other teachers remarked at what a good idea it was, causing Schollmeier to remark:

“I hope it’ll catch on, and a few more people will do that.”

Age: 59
Community: Janesville
Occupation: Retired teacher
Family: Husband, David, a retired school psychologist who now works part-time for the Clinton School District. Children, Chris, 27, a carpenter in La Crosse, and Amy 23, a grad student in mathematics
Hobbies: Scrap-booking, stamping, baking, euchre

Favorite book: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Schollmeier is an avid reader and member of two book clubs.

Music: Anything by Barbra Streisand
Movie: “Gone With the Wind”
You might not know: Schollmeier is the daughter of 2007 “50 Who Matter” honoree Ruby Walton. Gazette staff had no idea of the family connection at the time of her selection.
You might also not know: She was part of the team that wrote questions for the state’s annual fourth-grade tests.
Why she loves teaching: “It’s one of those careers where you’re always growing. You’re never stuck in a rut.” Also, “If you aren’t in this business for the kids, you might as well not be here.”

Last updated: 1:24 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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