I just wanted to post a special shout to an amazing person, Miss Shaunti Althoff. Shaunti and I have been great friends for the past 11 years, since we taught together as part of the Alliance for Catholic Education Program. We were stationed together for our first two years teaching in Biloxi, Mississippi, when we were fresh out of college and had no idea what we were doing. We had lots of fun, were challenged to no end, and shared many great memories.
My favorite, although not hers, was when I changed the School's sign to say "Congratulations Mr. Nelson National A.C.E. Teacher of the Year." Shaunti and I were both in the A.C.E. Program. The National Teacher of the Year Award did not exist. Needless to say the sign stayed up and I began getting congratulated by parents, flowers were sent to the school, I was stopped in the supermarket and everywhere I went and it was pretty crazy. People came up to me and said "I am so proud to have my daughter in the best A.C.E. teacher in the country's classroom" or "what an honor to know you." What started as prank ended up taking on a life of its own and it was beyond crazy!
Often Shaunti and I would head to sporting events together to watch our students play and parents would come running up to congratulate me for being the 'best teacher' and then suddenly they would realize she was there next to me and that "she lost." We shared many laughs about and I eventually had to fess up.
Truth be told if there were a contest she would have one. My dear friend Shaunti is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She has a great spirit, a generous heart, and strong faith, and she always made me feel at home at Notre Dame as well as during my time in Biloxi.
The more I go on in life the more I realize just how important good friends are and just how much some people do to bring spirit, joy and enthusiasm to the world. Shaunti, if you happen to read this I want you to know that you are an amazing person who I respect more than you will ever know. You bring out the very best in people and have been a very powerful influence on my life. Never lose your spirit or your faith, for you have shared the Light of Christ with many, including this seminarian. Thank you for your prayers, your support and your friendship. Happy 34th Birthday, may this year bring you as many blessings as you have brought to your students, your friends and your family!
And Congratulations on Being A.C.E. Teacher of the Year