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Lessons of Resilience: A Teacher's Tale Beyond the Classroom Walls

Lessons of Resilience: A Teacher's Tale Beyond the Classroom Walls
Jessica Williams

At Mahaffey Elementary, a first-grade ESL teacher's passion for guiding young minds began long before she entered her first classroom. This excellent educator is none other than Ms. Evon Dahnke. 

A love for teaching was ingrained in her early, sparked by childhood days spent instructing her stuffed animals in front of a chalkboard. 

"I've always known I wanted to be a teacher," Ms. Dahnke said. "I remember being in second grade and begging my mom to buy me a chalkboard to put in my bedroom. I would line up all my stuffed animals and 'teach' them."

Teaching for 15 years across different grades and districts, Ms. Dahnke found her purpose in the whirlwind of teaching, navigating through third, second, and fourth grades. However, a leap into the unknown – a move to first-grade ESL – altered her path.

Initially daunted by memories of her struggle to grasp reading in her early years, she took on the challenge. The magic of witnessing the 'light bulb' moments, when comprehension dawned upon her first graders, became her guiding light. Their triumphs mirrored her perseverance in conquering academic obstacles. With unwavering dedication, Ms. Dahnke's goals extended beyond academics; it was about instilling confidence and readiness for the next chapter in each student's academic journey.

"My favorite part about teaching first grade is seeing students' light bulb moments. When they understand the concept being taught," Ms. Dahnke said. "As a teacher, you want to burst with excitement and tears. When the light switch gets flipped, and suddenly you have a student struggling with blending sounds to read sentences and not word by word anymore, it's so amazing!"

Yet, life's challenges weren't confined to the classroom. A recent battle with stage 3C Ovarian Cancer tested her resilience. In personal turmoil, Mahaffey became more than a workplace. The staff's warmth and the administration's unwavering support to her colleagues made navigating tough times more manageable. 

"This past year was a difficult one for me. In April, I found out I was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer," Ms. Dahnke said. "I came to school after finding out; honestly, school was my sanctuary. Here, I didn't have to worry about any of that. Here, I could laugh and teach with the kiddos. At the end of October, I found out I had no evidence of disease, and that was probably the second-best day of my life besides marrying my husband."

Overcoming this monumental challenge ignited a new purpose – raising awareness about Ovarian Cancer and advocating for regular check-ups.

"My goal is to not only stay cancer-free but also to spread awareness about Ovarian Cancer," Ms. Dahnke said. "It is not talked about as much as others, and I didn't know much about it until my life revolved around it for the last six months."

Beyond Ms. Dahnke's dedication to education, she finds solace in various hobbies - drawing, organizing, reading, and an eagerness to resume her workouts after months of hiatus. 

What a fantastic educator and advocate for both education and health. Mahaffey Elementary and the #KleinFamily are grateful for Ms. Dahnke and all she brings to the table for her Scotties.

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