Going the extra mile is standard for Orfordville teacher

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Sunday, January 20, 2008
— Three students rush into teacher Mary Stelter’s classroom during lunchtime at Orfordville’s Parkview High School.

Stelter asks if they have eaten, but none responds.

She looks at the girls knowingly, writes a check and hands it to them.

“Go get lunch,” she tells them, as the girls dash out the door.

The woman with the big heart not only feeds hungry teens from her own pocket but also gives them unconditional love beyond the classroom. For many, her guiding hand has made all the difference.

Consider Danielle Trezek of Janesville. The young woman says she never would have graduated from Parkview if not for Stelter. And she definitely would not have a job as a security officer without the dedicated teacher.

“I would be nowhere without her,” Trezek says.

“She is like a second Mom to me.”

Trezek had a tough time in high school. She was expelled twice and had two children by the time she graduated.

But Stelter never gave up on the young woman.

“From the day I met her, I saw something wonderful inside her that was struggling to come out,” Stelter says.

Stelter, on her own time, went to tutor Trezek at her home when Trezek was expelled. Stelter also paid to get her home-schooling. Because of the extra effort, Trezek finished school half a year early and graduated with her class of 2005.

Stelter also took Trezek to parenting classes, babysat her children and helped her enroll at Blackhawk Technical College.

“She went way above and beyond the call of duty,” Trezek says. “I don’t know where I would be today without her. Mary Stelter has made a huge difference to me and to so many kids out there.”

Spend a few minutes in Stelter’s special education classroom, and one will see her love flow. Her students are challenged with emotional and cognitive disabilities. But that does not mean Stelter gives them easy rides.

She expects them to push themselves and succeed.

Karen Coakley, Stelter’s co-worker, says, “Mary’s job description is like no other. If kids are in the hospital, she brings them homework. If they need special help, she invites them to her house. She loves every minute of her work.”

Stelter often invites students to her house for supper and homework around the dining room table, where her own two teenagers are doing assignments.

Stelter doesn’t mind bringing students home “because it is so wonderful to see them get good grades,” she explains. “A lot of my students come with the attitude they can’t do anything. When they succeed, it is so incredible to watch them change.”

The 41-year-old Stelter has taught special education students at Parkview for 13 years.

“They are students who need more,” she says. “I was once a student like that.”

Stelter graduated from Beloit’s Turner High School. She would not be where she is today if a special teacher, Christine Nelson, had not gone the extra mile to help her.

Today, Stelter gladly straps on her gym shoes to go the extra lap for a student in need.

Mary Stelter
Age: 41
Community: Orfordville
Occupation: Teacher at Parkview High School
Family: Husband, Eric; two children, Bradly, 15, and Molly, 13
Favorite hobby: Horseback riding
A favorite CD: “The Women of Christmas”
A favorite movie: “Gone with the Wind”
A favorite book: All the Harry Potter books
Role model: Christine Nelson, a former teacher
Three words that best describe you: Energetic, compassionate, giving

Last updated: 1:22 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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