This week we highlight the people who make Prairie so special –– our teachers.

By Rachel Shuster | Student Life, Upper School

For Shannon Schafer, the word that comes to mind when she thinks of Prairie is “family.”

Quite literally, Schafer’s family is here. The Upper School Science teacher only has to trek a short distance down the hall to find her husband, Nich, who teaches Primary School Physical Education. The couple’s two young daughters, Ayela ’29 and Addy ’31, attend Prairie, too.

But in her classroom, Mrs. Schafer’s definition of kin extends beyond her immediate relations.

“Even before my kids were here, my family was this place,” she says. “I feel like I can connect with the kids, and there are coworkers I’ve felt like I could call ‘my second mom.’ These people are part of my community.”

What makes the difference?

“There’s an importance in education here, and that makes for great connections,” she adds. “I don’t know if that would be the case in another school.”

Over her 17 years on campus, Schafer has worn a number of hats that broaden her network across campus. She worked as the House Manager for theatre for a number of years, and kept book for the Boys’ Basketball team before that. She still keeps in touch with students she supervised on class trips to the Grand Canyon.

Schafer’s held one of her most favorite positions, as US Service Club adviser, since 2006. Through events including a silent auction fundraiser to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the annual Holiday Party hosted for area adults with cognitive disabilities, students learn empathy and compassion.

Schafer says the club helps students expand their worldview — and has much the same effect on her.

“Prairie is a small part of this larger community, and you don’t see it if you never go beyond these walls,” she explains. “Racine is really unique, and I think Service Club is really good for opening our eyes to what else is around us.”

Teaching wasn’t always the plan for Mrs. Schafer. She loved whales as a child, and seriously considered marine biology as a career path; she trained in Biology and Chemistry during college with sights set on working in pediatrics, but later shifted gears to pursue her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

She says she couldn’t be happier to have ultimately landed in the teaching profession, specifically at Prairie. And she hopes she can pass some of the knowledge she’s gained down to her students.

“We as advisers have the ability to talk to our students about their future, and one thing I often say is, ‘You have so much work time ahead of you, do something that you’re not going to dread getting up for every single day,'” she shares.

“I never dread going to work. Every day is different, even though your schedule is the same and some activities remain constant — every kid is different and what they bring to every day changes. That keeps it fresh, even after almost 20 years.”

Each day during National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7th-11th) we will be telling the stories of our teachers, coaches, advisors, and faculty members. You can help Prairie’s teachers continue to progress by making a gift in support of Faculty Development at The Prairie School.