For anyone who has gone to St. Paul in the last four decades, the chances are they had Sharon Sherrill as a teacher, a coach or a mentor. Now instructing her second and third generation of students, the elementary school teacher is still providing her charges with the tools they need to succeed.
“In the Lutheran school system you don’t get an early out,” Sherrill said. “I have one brother who is 74 and still an active minister. Besides, why stay home if you love your work?”
Although others may have worked in a field just as long as Sherrill, it is very seldom someone stays at the same place for most of their entire career.
“It is unusual for someone to have stayed at one place for all these years,” Sherrill said. “I have also taught summer school for Farmington and I have done ‘Parents As Teachers’ which allows me to be in the homes of some of these kids, but it is still part of the public school system.”
Sherrill explains her longevity as a teacher in a very simple way … a way only a teacher would explain why they return to the classroom year after year. “It’s the kids that keeps me coming back,” Sherrill said. “The joy of being here so long is that I get to see my students start in the first grade and then go to high school. Now I get to see them become great teachers, mechanics, coaches and librarians. To watch them take their God-given talents and use them is probably the greatest present a teacher can receive.”
Born to a German family in the small Missouri town of Emma, Sherrill credits her family for the drive to do the very best and for becoming an educator.
“Education was very important to my family,” Sherrill said. “My mom only went to the ninth grade. She wanted to go further, but at that time women just didn’t do that, and my father only had a sixth grade education. He went to a German-English school so they learned everything in both languages. But they were both eager to keep getting better.”
Sherrill also believes her father’s “be the best you can be” attitude is another character trait that has served her well.
“My father’s philosophy was ‘I don’t care what you do. If you are a ditch digger, you do the best you can do because God gave you a talent,’” she said.
With the help of her family, Sherrill’s decision to become a teacher was rather easy for a young girl from central Missouri.
“I have four brothers who all went into education, and a sister who became a nurse.” Sherrill said. “So my choice was (between) becoming an educator or becoming a nurse. I chose education because of being able to play sports while I was in school.”
Throughout Sherrill’s career, she has seen educational trends come and go, but believes the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“It’s kind of a circle of things,” Sherrill said. “The same things are being taught just in a new and different way or a new term is being used. We are still trying to reach kids in many different ways.”
Craig Vaughn is a reporter for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3629 or at firstname.lastname@example.org