Whenever a school in this country is struck by a seemingly unimaginable tragedy, educators and administrators review their own worst-case-scenario plans. For many teachers, this means securing a classroom and ensuring the safety of students. For one wheel-chair bound teacher, that is an even more difficult challenge.
Marissa Schimmoeller is a ninth and tenth grade English teacher at Delphos Jefferson High School in Delphos, Ohio. Schimmoeller has cerebral palsy. While it hasn’t limited her ability to teach, or her compassion for her students, it presents unique challenges due to her limited mobility.
Her students, though, had their own plan. In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, her students told her “If anything happens, we are going to carry you.”
Schimmoeller opened up about her experience on Facebook.
“Today was really hard for me. Today was the first time I had to teach the day after a mass school shooting. I dreaded facing my students this morning, and as the first students walked in, I began to feel the anxiety pooling in my stomach. I was dreading one, specific question. Soon after class began, a freshman asked me the question I had been dreading since I had heard about the tragedy in Florida.
“‘Mrs. Schimmoeller,’ she asked. ‘What will we do if a shooter comes in your room?’
“My stomach sank. I launched into my pre-planned speech about our plan of action. Then, I knew I had to say the harder part: ‘I want you to know that I care deeply about each and every one of you and that I will do everything I can to protect you. But – being in a wheelchair, I will not be able to protect you the way an able-bodied teacher will. And if there is a chance for you to escape, I want you to go. Do not worry about me. Your safety is my number one priority.’
“Slowly, quietly, as the words I had said sunk in, another student raised their hand. She said, ‘Mrs. Schimmoeller, we already talked about it. If anything happens, we are going to carry you.’
“I lost it. With tears in my eyes as I type this, I want my friends and family to know that I understand that it is hard to find the good in the world, especially after a tragedy like the one that we have watched unfold, but there is good. True goodness. It was found in the hearts of my students today.”
After her experience went viral, Schimmoeller spoke about her students to the Today. “They are the reason I went into teaching. They are the reason I get out of bed to teach every day,” Schimmoeller said. “I think building positive relationships with students is one of the most, if not the most, important thing a teacher can do for their students.”