Contrary to what some of her students might think, fifth-grade teacher Rachel Schaeffer has a life outside her classroom at Rosewood Elementary School.
She has a home, a husband, two children, interests and hobbies. She could spend her time after school with them, escaping school life and taking a break from her students.
But instead, a few nights in December, she loaded a bag of presents and cards into her car and headed out around the city to visit every student in her classroom and bring them a little holiday cheer.
At some homes, her students seemed shocked to see her.
“They can’t believe that I exist outside school,” Schaeffer said. “When I show up, they’re just blown away.”
To each student, she handed a small wrapped gift, a set of earbud headphones to use with their iPads in class. She also wrote a card for each student to read out loud while she was there.
“You are kind.”
“You work so hard.”
“You are great to have in class.”
The students thanked her, sometimes quietly, sometimes with a hug, sometimes with a gift in return.
One child handed Schaeffer a mug with “Teacher” written on, apologizing that Schaeffer probably wouldn’t use it because she doesn’t like coffee.
Schaeffer gave her a hug and a heartfelt, “Thank you.”
“I’ll drink tea in it,” she said. “I love it.”
It’s those little moments that make Schaeffer take the time from her life outside school to go the extra mile for her students. The moments when a girl picked out a gift for her teacher, or when a boy jumps up and down with excitement and proudly shows off his younger siblings and cousins and tells them with pride, “This is my teacher.”
Those moments let Schaeffer say “hello” to a grandmother and tell her how proud she is of her grandson, or let a neighbor know that she’s looking for the apartment of one of her students.
Like many teachers in Rock Hill and across the country, Schaeffer cares for her students more than they’ll probably ever know.
“Because even when they’re not with me, I’m thinking of them all the time,” Schaeffer said. “So why not come visit and show them and their families how much I care.”
Last December, Schaeffer visited just a few homes, to check in and give a little extra time to some students. But when she saw the impact it had on them and their families, she realized it was a gift she had to share with everyone in her class.
“And so here I am,” she said, driving her car away from Rosewood Elementary and toward the homes where her students live – both near and far from the school.
“However many nights it takes, that’s how many I’ll go out until I see them all,” Schaeffer said. “Because they’re all worth it, and it’s just too good an experience not to.”
Rachel Southmayd • 803-329-4072