The Student Becomes the Teacher

By Samantha Dietel, Editor in Chief

It’s all coming full circle for Danielle Schumacher.

Schumacher, an English teacher at West Bend West High School, has agreed to take on the Honors English II course for the upcoming school year beginning Sept. 4. She replaces Tiffany Gitter, who left for another district opportunity, and thus will now partner with East English teacher Eric Beltmann, who was her own teacher for the very same course over a decade ago.

“It’s a blessing,” Schumacher said when asked about how she feels to be Beltmann’s partner for Honors English II. “I can’t wait to learn more from him. I guess it’s a little overwhelming too because I don’t want to let him down, I don’t want to let the kids down. So it’s exciting but it is a little nerve-wracking.”

Schumacher was Beltmann’s student as a sophomore in his Honors American Literature class—now called Honors English II—during the 2006-2007 school year, and even became Beltmann’s family babysitter the following summer.

“When my family needed a daily babysitter to care for our daughter Kael while both my wife and I taught summer school, Danielle was the first person I considered,” Beltmann said. “We were thrilled when she agreed to help us out. She became our family babysitter, and she just never really stopped, even after she became a full-time teacher. Both of my children, Kael and Keaton, have loved having Danielle in their lives.”

Kael Beltmann, who will be attending East as a ninth grader this fall, agrees.

“I always got excited when my parents told us (Schumacher) was coming to babysit,” Kael said.

Eric Beltmann attended Danielle Schumacher’s wedding June 15. Schumacher is his former student and current colleague. Photo courtesy of Photography by Scott Edward (Scott Lone).

Schumacher also did not miss the opportunity to serve as Beltmann’s ISICS (Independent Study in Community Service) student during her senior year of high school. As his ISICS student, Schumacher would assist him with grading and running copies, among other tasks.

She later joined the English department in 2014 and therefore has been Beltmann’s colleague ever since.

Considering how intertwined their lives have been, Beltmann is very enthusiastic about his new partnership with Schumacher.

“I’m ecstatic that Mrs. Schumacher agreed to become my new partner,” he said. “We’re going to make a great team. I’ve been very lucky to have great collaborators over the years, and that good fortune will certainly continue with Mrs. Schumacher. We get along famously and usually see things eye to eye.”

Beltmann also expressed interest in the new ideas that Schumacher may bring to the table.

“The course has considerably evolved since Ms. Schumacher took it, but she still has insights about what connects for students and what doesn’t,” he said. “I look forward to hearing her youthful ideas about bringing new life to the course. I was a relatively new teacher when she was my student, but I’m practically a dinosaur at this point.”

The opportunity to teach Honors English II became available to Schumacher after Gitter accepted a new position outside of the English department as an instructional technology coach for the district. Gitter trusts that in her absence, Schumacher will do the course justice as a teacher.

“(Schumacher) is absolutely passionate about the content, has tremendous experience as a teacher, and will work exceptionally well with Mr. Beltmann to continue to provide the best educational experiences for students,” Gitter said. “Based on all of this, there really isn’t a better teacher for the class and I am thrilled that her dreams will be coming true. I have every confidence in her.”

“It’s exciting but it is a little nerve-wracking.”
– Danielle Schumacher, West English teacher

Besides working more closely with Beltmann, Schumacher also looks forward to teaching some of the books that she loved when she originally went through the class. Her favorites from the course include F. Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated novel “The Great Gatsby” and Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible.”

There is one book, however, that Schumacher is not quite as keen to be teaching: “The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane.

“That’s a book that I struggled with in high school, and maybe I need to go back and look at it with fresh eyes,” Schumacher said. “I’ll clearly have to give it another shot because I’m going to have to teach it, so while it’s not something that I’m most looking forward to, I guess I am excited to look at it through fresh eyes. And maybe I’ll like it this time.”

Beltmann, who is aware of Schumacher’s distaste for Crane’s novel, says that he is glad to now have a second chance at convincing her to love “The Red Badge of Courage.”

Ultimately, Schumacher hopes to ensure that the Honors English II course continues to be remarkable.

“I’m just excited because I know that (Beltmann and Gitter) trust me, and I really am grateful that they think so highly of me,” she said. “But then to teach a class that I know they have worked so hard on—I just want to continue to make that class an amazing class.”

(Top image: Danielle Schumacher displays two of her favorite American works, “The Great Gatsby” and “The Crucible.” Photo by Samantha Dietel, Editor in Chief.)

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