Educator Spotlight: The Schippers of OJ DeJonge Middle School.

March 6, 2022

Educator Spotlight: The Schippers of OJ DeJonge Middle School.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Educator Spotlight is a presentation of is a presentation of Smith & Eddy Insurance, with offices in Scottville and Manistee, offering discounts for MEA members and school employees.

LUDINGTON – Following in the patches of their parents, Todd and Lauren (Klemm) Schipper had an easy time deciding they wanted to pursue teaching as a career. Todd grew up in the Grand Rapids area, while Lauren is a native of Ludington. Both have spent over 20 years in the classroom, but not until somewhat recently have they spent time teaching in the same building.

“coming from a family of teachers, I can say that I have been in the field of education all of my life,” Lauren said. “My introduction to teaching began when I was a sixth grader and my mom, retired Ludington Area School District teacher Mary Margaret Klemm, put me to work grading papers, doing bulletin boards, and organizing her classroom library.”

Todd added, “My Dad was a teacher, my mom worked at Grand Valley State University, my best friends were teachers, I married a teacher, my mother-in-law was a teacher. Realistically, my mom was always involved in my education, and she liked that I chose education.”

Both Todd and Lauren teach at OJ DeJonge Middle School in Ludington, Todd teaching social studies and history, while Lauren teaches English/language arts. They each have a great passion for their areas of study and they really enjoy spreading their passion of education to their students.

“I absolutely love being a middle school teacher,” Lauren said. “The fact that I teach kids reading and writing is a bonus. My whole philosophy for teaching students at this level, regardless of the subject, revolves around developing good character. At the beginning of each school year, I tell the students that it is my job not only to help them be better readers and writers, it is also my job to help them be good humans. My overall goal is to help students to be empathetic, to be collaborative, to be problem solvers, and to be independent thinkers.”

Todd agreed. “Relationships with kids is number one. In addition to that, my favorite thing about teaching over the years was APUSH. I loved trying to get kids to pass that test, regardless of success, I knew that they would be able to take that experience to other (advanced) classes or even out to the college. I did that for 17 years, but now, I get to have fun again with middle schoolers, that circle I started when I was student teaching is completed.”

Although the Schippers teach different subjects, one thing about education they have very much in common is what they’d love to see change in education.

“I would love to invite politicians to spend a week in my classroom, to see how the laws that are enacted impact our staff and students,” Lauren said. “I would love for society to see what really happens each day in our classrooms and schools. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what is happening and what isn’t. It seems that educators are always put on the defensive, and it is exhausting. I just want to teach my kids and make them smile, I want to do that too.”

Todd agreed. “Politics. Education is an easy football to kick. Both sides like to use education and kick around teachers for their own gain. Talking heads throw out ideas that are not accurate and it gets people to attack. Being attacked all the time takes a toll, which is why all 50 states currently have a teacher shortage crisis.”

When asked about the teacher shortage and what they’d say to individuals wanting to pursue the field even with all the turmoil, both defended their career with a lot of passion.

“Be ready to laugh, cry, and experience every emotion in between, on a daily basis,” Lauren said. “Teaching is not for the faint at heart. You will have situations that cause you to belly laugh, I mean tears running down your face kind of laughter. You will encounter tragic situations that destroy you, that just break your heart into millions of pieces. You will feel such a sense of pride in the smallest of accomplishments, perhaps everyone turned in their homework today. You will feel defeated and decimated from constant criticism and ever changing teaching demands. You will feel exhaustion beyond any you have felt before. Nothing can prepare you for the constant whirlwind of emotions you will experience. But if you are up for a wild ride, it is a ride worth taking.”

“I currently have a former student who is observing me as he is preparing for a career in education,” Todd said. “We talk a lot about the future and what changes have happened and what to be prepared for. Education is a career, it really isn’t a job, so what that means is you must think long-term. I mean, the average person has about five different jobs over their lifetime, whereas a teacher might just have one. A long time ago, I read a book and the title sums up some of the best advice I ever learned, ‘Do What You Love, and the Money Will Follow.’ People do not go into education for money, they never have, but if you love what you do, it is a rewarding career.”

With great love for their jobs, Todd and Lauren have both had very rewarding careers so far as teachers and they wouldn’t change much about it, including working together.

“Working in the same building as Todd definitely has its ups and downs,” Lauren said. “I think overall, it has been a positive experience. We both have our areas of expertise, and I think together we make a pretty fierce team. We have always been pretty collaborative, and have helped each other develop engaging lessons and authentic assessments. Now that we are in the same building, working with the same students, we collaborate even more.”

Todd added, “My wife should be granted sainthood, for having had to teach in the same school as her mom, Mary Margaret Klemm and me. Neither one of us had to be easy to deal with. I think she was initially worried, mainly because I had a high school mentality, now I believe she and I can talk about the demands of middle school, especially during a global pandemic. It is not always easy to be married to someone in the field of education, when both of you are in it together, it is hard to get away from it. Also, everyone loves Mrs. Schipper, so when students have her and then get me they are almost always disappointed.”

All in all working together and living together can have its ups and downs, but Lauren said she believes that in the end, it has molded both of them into great versions of themselves.

“I think we have helped each other become better teachers,” she stated. “A drawback would definitely be that it is difficult to stop the work talk at home. We have joked that we should be earning professional development hours with all of the ‘staff meetings’ we have at home.”

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