Becoming a teacher was always something that interested Judy Pingel.
But once she got into the classroom, something changed.
“It wasn’t what I thought it would be,” she said.
So, Pingel made some changes. She got into banking, working in loans. She got married, had kids, homeschooled them for eight years, then moved from Champaign to Mahomet so that her children could go to high school at Mahomet-Seymour.
Life wasn’t finished with changes for Pingel. With the kids in school, she subbed in the Mahomet-Seymour School District for a year, then took an aide position at Sangamon.
Then Pingel took another year and a half off to nurse her husband, who had fallen ill with leukemia, which claimed his life.
In 2010, she was ready to get back in the classroom, but in a different capacity. She knew that she still loved to be an educator, but wanted to work with students in smaller groups.
Now, in her eighth year as a paraprofessional at Sangamon, Pingel will retire at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
“I love working with the kids, they’re great,” she said. “This age group is great. They love their teachers and it’s fun to see them respond to you when you’re teaching them. It’s such a joy to see them grow academically, but also as people.”
Growing a connection with the students and meeting them where they are is what is truly important to Pingel.
“They are a lot of kids who come from hurting homes, so if we can show them love and care during the day, that’s really special.”
“You hope that they are growing academically, but that they know that you care for them, that you’re concerned for them, and that they are being helped.”
As Sangamon Elementary closes its doors to teachers and students in the Mahomet-Seymour School District, Pingel said she will hold onto the memories she’s shared with her friends during her tenure.
“Sangamon has been a great place to work,” she said. “I’m sure as everyone who works here, Sangamon is our family. I personally right now don’t have any family here in the area. This is my family here at work. Everyone is so supportive and loving and caring.”
Pingel still has plans to continue sharing kindness with Mahomet children as she will continue to volunteer at her church and gets involved with ministries nearby.
But, first, she will travel to Greece with her oldest son and his wife to visit her youngest son who is stationed there as a marine. Then, she plans to travel to Florida with some of her friends.
“I’m not making any big plans right now because I just want to see how it goes,” she said.