Janae Wintermute

Giving back

Posted by nancy on May 26, 2021

“give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 (ESV).

Have you ever given of yourself and in the process received an even greater blessing? I can think of several examples of this in my life, but one that stands out from the rest is how God returned blessings back to me through a person who I once helped.

My first year of teaching was a challenge.  I had been homeschooling my three daughters who were in pre-K, second, and sixth grade, and my son was an eighth grader at the local Christian school run by my church. My husband’s job had been cut from full-time to three days a week, so I was looking for part-time work to supplement our income.

In April of 2005, our  church bulletin announced an opening at the school.  I had not thought of applying since I wasn’t a certified teacher, but I chatted with the principal at a meeting at the school, and he encouraged me to submit an application.

When I interviewed for the position, I thought it was for the fall. When the principal told me that he wanted me to start right away, I walked out of the interview and told him that there was no way I could force my children to make such a drastic change so late in the school year. 

“Mom, it’s okay, we can do it,” my oldest daughter, Chelsea, said when I got home.

“Yeah, Mom,” her younger sisters chimed in.

We had a family meeting, and we agreed we could make it work.  I called the principal back, and a week later, I enrolled my daughters in school and started teaching.

In the fall, I was assigned to teach jr. high science and English.  When I wasn’t teaching classes, I was assigned to the Jr./Sr. High Learning Center where the students learned through independent study.

I soon discovered that teaching a class of eighteen students was much different than teaching my own children at home.  And it was not explained to me in the interview that my rookie year would be spent teaching the most challenging Jr. High class in the history of the school. 

But there was a bright spot.  I was assigned to tutor the pastor’s daughter who was a senior.  Janae was a lovely teen with blue eyes and blond hair. She had a sweet, gentle spirit, and she struggled academically.  It was my job to help her finish all her work so she could graduate.

I spent hours drilling her in English, studying with her, adapting tests for her, and helping her write her research paper.  I even arranged for her to interview my mother to use as a source for her paper which was about clothing styles through the decades.

Tutoring Janae benefitted me as well.  It had been a few years since I had graduated from college, and I was learning alongside Janae.  By the end of the year, I was confident with conjugating irregular verbs, and I could identify direct objects, indirect objects, objective complements, dangling participles, and other grammar terms that I don’t even remember learning about in college. I had also gotten the hang of diagramming complex sentences. But this is not the returned blessing I referred to in the beginning.  That came later.

Six years later, I was a seasoned teacher and feeling blessed to serve at the school. At this point, the school underwent major changes. The first through eighth grades were switched from traditional classrooms to a self-paced independent study format, and I was asked to teach middle school (fourth to sixth grade).

The pastor, who was also the principal, called me into his office. He explained my changed responsibilities, and he told me that Janae wanted to volunteer in my classroom.  At this time, Janae’s job was cleaning the school. She started coming in early and spending hours in the classroom helping me before she started cleaning.

Janae became my right-hand gal.  She loved the children and showed up every day to help with the routine responsibilities in the classroom. She was sensitive to the needs of the academically challenged students and developed a special connection with them. She accompanied me on field trips and to competitions, and we attended  conferences together.

“I’ve got your back, Mrs. Lee,” she would say.  And she did.  She became good at anticipating what I needed before I figured it out. 

Janae started working towards her teacher’s assistant certificate, taking one or two classes at a time at our local community college.  For several years she continued to assist me in the classroom while attending classes and cleaning the school.  The academics were still a challenge for Janae, but she set her mind to it and worked hard. 

She graduated in  2018 and was then hired by the school as an official teacher’s assistant.

When I tutored Janae her senior year of high school, I never expected anything in return; I was simply doing my job.  But God gave back to me so much more through Janae’s years of faithful volunteer service, and He has blessed me with a cherished friend.

*photo by Becca Wintermute