By Jackie Stone
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Beth Schimschock did not always plan to work in schools, but she knew from an early age that she wanted to help those who needed a hand.
One summer when Schimschock was growing up in Shreveport, La., her mother made her volunteer with a program for the mentally retarded.
"At 16, my mother said, 'You are not going to be staying at home anymore and just going to the swimming pool," Schimschock said.
In that first summer of volunteering, Schimschock was hooked and returned the next year to take on more responsibility. After considering physical therapy, Schimschock settled on helping people communicate as her career.
Schimschock is now a speech pathologist for Copperas Cove Independent School District. She works out of Martin Walker Elementary School and helps about 40 students in the district who have trouble communicating because of speech, articulation or language problems.
On Thursday, she will be one of 10 teachers honored for their dedication to education with a Killeen Daily Herald Excellence in Teaching award.
Cori Wilkerson, a kindergarten teacher at Martin Walker, nominated Schimschock in part because of all the time and effort Schimschock has devoted to helping not only students, but also the teachers learning to communicate with them.
"When I was a new teacher, Beth provided more assistance that I could have hoped for," Wilkerson wrote in her nomination. "Years later, Beth continues to offer guidance and expertise with new methods of instruction for my struggling learners."
Schimschock moved into schools from the private sector when her daughter was born. After 20 years helping students to communicate with their teachers and peers, she doesn't know if she could or would want to make it in "the real world."
"I really love the school system. It is a lot of fun, and everything looks like a game even though it's work," she said.
Schimschock's work ranges from young students like Wilkerson's kindergartners who are just learning to speak, to students who have long-term communication problems such as those related to autism or physical and mental disabilities.
More broadly, Schimschock helps any student whose problems interfere with their education.
"If you have an articulation disorder, you're not processing something correctly. If that's the case, you're going to have difficulty understanding directions," she said. "Others are hampered in spelling and reading. If they can't say the sounds, they can't write the sounds."
Martin Walker Principal Marla Sullivan said Schimschock is not only knowledgeable but very loving and patient with the students.
"She works with a lot of our younger students, and she really helps them feel comfortable and confident by improving their speech," she said.
In addition to the physical aspects of speech pathology, Schimschock also helps students with social issues and self-esteem.
"I get teachers calling me all the time about helping them with their kid, and I think it's that they need to have someone take them away, someone new," she said. "I think people have gifts, and this is something I wanted to do from the time I was 17."
Contact Jackie Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcoveeditor.