All in the Family

To say education is important to the Schutt family is an
understatement. For this Mansfield family, education is a
way of life. Howard Schutt was a Baptist preacher who
taught his congregations faith, fundraising and education.
Over the past few decades he taught one struggling church
after another until they grew, and he would move on to
teach another; moving from Forestville, Texas, through many
other towns and finally ending up in Mansfield, where his
wife, Sue, found her calling as a school teacher. However,
when the time came for their grown daughters to select a
major in college, both Kristi Henderson and Melanie
Beckett actively avoided teaching. Instead, Kristi chose
social work, and Melanie earned her degree in business. But
once Kristi began taking the classes of her chosen major, she
quickly changed her mind.
“I knew it wasn’t for me,” Kristi said. “I realized I wanted
to be a teacher. I was called to this.” Without any further
hesitation, she changed her degree to education and within the
first year, following her graduation, she was working in the
same school district as her mother: Mansfield Independent
School District (MISD). While Sue worked at Alice Ponder
Elementary, Kristi joined the Charlotte Anderson Elementary
team, teaching third grade. Eventually, Sue would change to
Cross Timbers Intermediate.
“That was a lot of fun,” Sue laughed. “Of course, I would
get the kids who just came from Charlotte Anderson, and
they would be amazed that I had a picture of Ms. Henderson
on my file cabinet!”
While the mother/daughter duo of Sue and Kristi
tag-teamed the students of MISD, Melanie was determined
not to get into education. “I think I resisted teaching,”
Melanie said, “because of my mom and sister.” Only after
she had earned her degree and began working in a bank did
the realization hit her. “I knew something was missing, and
I knew deep down what it was.” Still, she moved slowly,
observing classrooms and tutoring students who had difficulty
with the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)
tests. “I only worked with them a couple of nights a week,”
she confided, “but they really captured my heart.” Before she
could stop herself, she responded to the same calling that had
trumpeted so soundly in the Schutt home.
“I truly feel that this is my calling. This is what I was
meant to do,” Melanie smiled, offering a statement with
which entire generations would concur. Among them, the
mother and daughters have taught more than 70 years.
While Sue has since retired, Kristi continues teaching. After
21 years at Charlotte Anderson, she moved to the newly
built Carol Holt Elementary to teach second grade.
For Melanie, Worley Middle School was her first teaching
assignment in 1991. Both she and her husband, Randy, left
the area because of his job, and she did not return until
2002, teaching at T.A. Howard. Today, she has already
taught for 14 years and is entering her ninth year teaching
with the MISD; she cannot imagine teaching anything but
seventh and eighth grade.
“There is something special about them. They have an
enthusiasm about life, a desire to learn and that zeal that they
express on a daily basis that I just love! And I know I learn
from them every day. I didn’t have the
greatest experience when I was in middle
school, so maybe it’s that personal
connection for me that causes me to
want them to have a great experience.”
Still, after so many years and after so
many administrations and curriculums,
how do the sisters still stay inspired to
teach?
“I told them to keep their focus on the
students,” Sue said, recalling the early
advice she once gave both daughters.
“I hope to build a relationship with
my students,” said Melanie. “None of
them are just a kid sitting in my room,
but a child I can watch grow. I treat
them as I would want my own child to
be treated.”
Truly, the responsibility of educating
and caring for the children of others is
something the Schutt women have
taken to heart. For all three women,
humor has been a key ingredient to
their successes. While they all describe
each other as “funny” and “fun” and
“dedicated,” letters from students and
parents say so much more. During the
month of November, “I am thankful in
November” letters are written in the
school district by students who have
called Kristi, “my hero,” and portrayed
Melanie as the teacher students can
always go to with a problem.
Today, for the two teachers who once
resisted following in their mother’s
footsteps, the idea of not being a teacher
or not being available to a young student
in need of a mentor or friend seems
impossible to both Melanie and Kristi.
“When we all go out for dinner,”
Sue laughed, “my husband and
sons-in-law always try to say we have
to have a ‘time out’ from teacher talk,”
but as they are always inevitably
recognized in a store or restaurant by
a current or former student, it is an
impossible request.
You can take the teacher out of the
classroom, but you can never stop the
Schutt women from teaching!