It didn’t take Kara Schoff long to receive recognition at Truman High School and in the Independence School District.
Schoff, a special education/functional skills teacher at Truman, was named the building Teacher of the Year in 2016 and went on to claim the District Teacher of the Year Award that same year. She had been teaching at Truman just three years.
“She’s just an energetic, amazing teacher who has a real passion for everything she does,” Truman activities director Eric Holm said. “In a short period of time, she has made a real impact here at Truman and has touched the lives of everyone she’s around. We’re so proud to have her at Truman.”
Schoff is going to have to find a space in her trophy case for a new award, as she was recently named the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan for the month of June at a Sporting Kansas City match.
Nominated by a longtime friend, Schoff fit the bill in the demanding selection process that includes:
• The degree to which the Samaritan has been a catalyst for a cause that meets basic human needs or enriches the lives of others.
• The degree to which the Samaritan has exhibited dedication and selflessness.
• The degree to which the Samaritan has made a special and significant impact on individuals, families or the community-at-large.
• The degree to which the Samaritan has gone “above and beyond” to serve and inspire others.
• The degree to which the nominator is able to convey the overall significance and impact of the Samaritan’s work.
“When I got the email saying I won the award I was really surprised,” Schoff said. “It’s a huge honor and it really caught me off guard. It’s a great way to send a shout out to everyone at Truman and let the public know about our great special needs kids.”
Schoff teaches and coaches special needs individuals – both current students and graduates of Truman – and recalls many heartwarming moments that reinforce her decision to switch her major in college from photography to special education.
“I worked a summer camp for kids with special needs,” she said, “and it had a big impact on my life. They worked so hard, and took nothing for granted, so I switched my major and I was lucky enough to get a job at Truman as a special education/functional skills teacher. I have never regretted changing my major. I am so blessed and thankful that I did.”
While she teaches during the day, she spends many her after-class hours coaching a variety of special needs teams, including softball, bowling, basketball and track and field.
“It’s so amazing to see these young people gain confidence, have fun and earn the respect of each other and the other students in the school,” she said. “I’m learning much more from them, than I believe they are learning from me.”
And her work ethic and enthusiasm are contagious.
“She puts in so many hours,” Holm said, “and she doesn’t get paid any extra for all her work with the Special Olympians. She’s just an amazing teacher and person.”
While she’s never asked for an extra penny on her paycheck, she did have one request, one hope and desire for her kids that was featured in a previous Examiner feature story.
“We get all the hand-me-downs,” Schoff explained. “The jerseys are old and mismatched and the kids wear pants that don’t match the jerseys, so we’re going to come up with some fundraising ideas to get my kids some nice jerseys. They take so much pride in playing, and representing Truman and I want them to look nice. You know, they’re my kids and I’m proud of them.”
After that comment appeared in The Examiner, a benefactor came forward and purchased new Special Olympic jerseys for Schoff’s “kids.”
“That was an amazing day,” she said. “I was so happy for my kids, and they were happy, too.”
Schoff was happy when earlier this month she attended a Sporting Kansas City game with VIP credentials. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and Sporting KC spotlight students and teachers who make the community a better place to live, work and play.
Schoff and her three guests went down on the field and were honored in pregame festivities at Children’s Mercy Park.
“I have to admit, it was a pretty cool experience,” she said. “We got there early, got a gift card and got to go down on the field and be recognized. … You know that I never do anything for personal recognition. I do it to help kids, who have become like members of my family.
“But this was so cool, and I really want to thank Blue KC for the honor.”