As a history teacher at Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASBVI), Shenandoah Strojek lives out one of the major themes of her favorite subject: a deep respect for the people who have shaped her story along the way.

“I had a really great history teacher in high school, and I wanted to be like her. I saw the impact that she had on her students every day and I wanted to make that kind of difference in peoples’ lives.” She channels the lesson she saw play out in her own life and applies it in the classroom, “I also love getting to share history with kids and showing them [how] people from the past still have an impact on us today.”

Strojek sees history in the making in her unique position at ASBVI. “I love my career because I get to see the growth that my students make not just day-to-day, but over the years. At my school I teach my students for many years and I love that I get to see them grow up.”

Outside of the classroom, Strojek uses another part of her personal history to shape her involvement in ASBVI: she’s the cheer coach. “I chose to become a cheer coach because I know how important sports can be in kids’ lives.” Growing up, her volleyball coach was a positive force in her life. “I was a volleyball manager in high school and my coach was and still is a very important person in my life. I want to be that for my students and provide them experiences that will help shape them as adults.”

Through cheer, she’s striving to teach big lessons and offer big opportunities, “I get to provide my students with another way for them to be successful outside the classroom and participate [in something that] they may not get to otherwise.”

In fact, her involvement with cheer gave her one of the most memorable moments in her teaching career. About four years ago, she led her team to victory at the North Central Association of Schools for the Blind Cheer and Wrestling Conference. “Getting to see them win and watching all their hard work pay off was so rewarding as both a coach and a teacher. Their excitement and pride was something I will never forget.”

Strojek also credits mentors from more recent history with her teaching success. “Barbara James was my cooperating teacher when I was just starting out as a student teacher and she was the first person to really believe in me as an educator.” Another crucial historical marker was Linda Williams. “She taught me everything I needed to know about being a teacher of the visually impaired and I never would have made it here without her.”

Time and again, Strojek plays the student of her own life. She makes it a point to stop and recognize those who helped her become the teacher and coach she is today. And she pours that gratitude and passion into cheering her own students and athletes on to lifelong success.

Do you know a central Arkansas teacher who works hard every day to inspire his or her students to learn, reach goals and dream? Click here and nominate him or her for one of our 2021 Amazing Educator Awards!

See more of this year's Amazing Educators.