Schuster is a special education teacher, but that only scrapes the surface of her impact. She has stepped into other roles around the school when needed, serving as an English teacher when a fellow teacher became sick. And after being an eighth grade math and science tutor last year, it was only a natural progression for her to become eighth grade intervention specialist this year.
Outside of the classroom, Schuster coaches Bennett students in Girls on the Run and has participated in the Great Cycle Challenge USA to raise money for children’s cancer research.
Those are just some of the things she has had a hand in during her four years at Bennett Venture Academy, which has outperformed the local district for 15 years.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve been the glue for eighth grade a little bit, but we're a strong team,” Schuster said.
Girls on the Run is especially meaningful to Schuster. For four years at Bennett Venture Academy she has coached sixth to eighth grade students, giving them exercises to do at home. They start off by running for 25 minutes and are built up to run for 45 minutes.
The purpose of the group goes deeper than physical activity. Girls on the Run also provides self-esteem training, helping them learn how to become more goal oriented while giving them a place to talk about empowerment and standing up for yourself. The girls also get scholarships and participate in a race with thousands of others at Bowling Green State University or University of Toledo.
Schuster said some girls have had trauma in their lives, and being involved in the organization gives them a sense of control through running. Whether their issues stem from home, trouble with schoolwork, or behavior issues, Girls on the Run gives them a sense of camaraderie and focus. It also has helped parents bond with their children.
“We had one really cool thing where the dad ran with his daughter and now they do five days together,” Schuster said. “All of a sudden they’re involved and bonded in a totally different way.”
In addition to Girls on the Run, Schuster also is passionate about the Great Cycle Challenge USA, as people cycle throughout September to raise money for children’s cancer research. She recently completed the challenge for the third time by riding 100 miles in September after registering 158 miles in 2022. She rides five to 10 miles per ride during the week with some 20-mile rides on the weekends on the bike trail next to her home in memory of her mother Elizabeth, who died of cancer in 1991.
“It’s an amazing program,” she said. “We keep these brave kids in our hearts and minds as we turn those pedals and climbs those hills.”
Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Schuster!
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Bennett Venture Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school located in Toledo, Ohio serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.