MURRAY, Iowa — Mindy Oswald is a familiar name the halls of Murray High School. For nearly a decade, she’s taught math but hopes her students walk away learning something more.
“I understand that not everyone loves the subject but I think it’s important to learn how to be problem solvers and for kids to believe in their abilities to do hard things. We can do that in this room together,” she smiles.
Oswald’s inclusive attitude comes as second nature and is contagious.
“I think we all have a responsibility to lift each other up and to love each other in the best way that we know how. As teachers we get to have the opportunity with a lot of kids every day,” says the teacher.
Senior student, Hailey Chew calls her teacher a great role model and mentor.
“Her willingness to put time into us as students. She always puts us before herself that`s what makes her the best teacher,” Chew says. She says Oswald isn’t just a teacher in the classroom but in life; playing an active role in her church and helping others who are in need. “She makes me feel like family by just being herself. She reaches out to everyone and by being the happy go lucky person that she is, definitely draws people towards her.”
Oswald’s faith is just as bold as her teaching. She says her relationship in God is what led her to become an educator.
“I feel like He put me in a place here where I can shower these kids with love and point them to a better life and better choices,” Oswald explains. “It’s the greatest honor I could ever have.”
Oswald has taught within the Murray Community School District for eight years.
ROCKWELL CITY, Iowa — For 34 years, Jane Henley has started her day as a teacher. She’s spent most of that time in her first grade classroom at South Calhoun Elementary School. It’s her happy place and her students’ too.
“You want them to be happy. You want them to live in the best possible world that they can. When they are happy, school goes better. Everything goes better when you are happy,” she says.
For one of Henley’s students, that almost wasn’t the case.
“He’s kind of a worrier. He doesn’t like to start new things and he gets really nervous,” says first-grader Lucas Anderson’s mom, Mandy.
Lucas is the new kid at school this year. Before, he struggled in the classroom and didn’t like going to school but Ms. Henley helped change that. She calmed the boy’s nerves.
“It’s nice for him to feel like he can put down roots and feel comfortable and confident,” Anderson says of her son. “I feel like he`s going to be okay in school. He has a good foundation now and I don`t have to worry about him. Knowing that helps me relax as a mom.”
The teacher says helping students and parents feel comfortable comes from a familiar place. “For me, I think it’s because I’m a mom. You always put yourself in the other person’s position. How would I want them to treat my child on the first day of school?” she says.
The Anderson family nominated Henley for the Golden Apple Award. Henley tells Channel 13 it never gets old when she see students like Lucas transform over the course of the school year. It’s one of the reasons she says she is putting off retirement.
“I love what I do and have great people to work with. It’s right where I want to be right now so I plan to come back,” she smiles.
South Calhoun Elementary School serves roughly 300 pre-school through third grade students.