Mr. Sam was a fourth grade teacher who had more impact on one young student than he ever realized at the time. “He believed in me and made me feel like I could do anything,” says Renee Loftus, now a passionate and devoted teacher herself. Because Renee’s father passed away when she was three, Mr. Sam made sure to include her in all his family events that included picking out a Christmas tree, making homemade pizzas, and going to a haunted house. Most importantly, when she struggled in school, Mr. Sam patiently worked with her until she understood each challenge.
There were other influencers in her life that included her mother who always supported her and provided unconditional love, and a dance teacher who Renee says could look her in the eye and make her feel like she was the only one who mattered. “Micki Pospisil had a huge impact on my life. She believed in me as well,” adds Renee, “and asked me to be her studio helper when I was in seventh grade.”
Renee’s journey led her from Catholic grade school and high school to majoring in Elementary Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. While in college, she embraced all her experiences—both good and bad—that led her to realize that every day offers a lesson and a purpose.
During her first year of teaching second grade, Renee discovered that teaching was not just a job, but her passion. After a student lost his father to a heart attack, Renee knew God put her there to guide him and be with him through his grief. Renee states, “When he struggled, we struggled through it together.” She says she forever thinks about this student, and is so grateful that today, he is married and happy.
With a big smile and contagious positive attitude that light up her classroom, Renee has continued on her mission to reach every child in her classroom in every way for the past eighteen years. She delights in filling them with love, and is just as happy as her students when the light bulb of understanding turns on. A typical day begins with a greeting and highlight. “We have a fill your bucket kind of moment,” Renee says. Throughout days packed with differentiated instruction, Renee provides immediate feedback and then steps back to watch her students bloom. She ends each day with a hug, handshake, or a high five for each of her students.
To this day, Renee is still in contact with Mr. Sam. He was one of the first ones she told when she landed her first teaching job and, ironically, she is now teaching in the classroom next-door to the room that meant so much to her as a fourth grader. Additionally, she still takes dance lessons from Micki Pospisil. Life has truly brought her full circle so she can build her students up just as Mr. Sam and Micki Pospisil did for her.
Her best advice for someone wanting to pursue their passion in life is to stay humble. “No one knows it all,” she says. “Learn, grow, build each other up, communicate, and stay positive even when others want to bring you down. Smile and be you!”
As William Arthur Ward once said, “The great teacher inspires.” Every morning that Renee Loftus walks into her classroom, she does just that with the understanding that one day, her example may prompt another young student to look up to her and realize that teaching is their passion too.
Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Transitions Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.