Beloved, long-time Sunnyvale ISD teacher Mrs. Jane Wheeler has received the Sunnyvale Alumni Association’s Legacy Award for 2022. She will be honored at half-time of the SISD homecoming game on Friday, October 14.
Mrs. Wheeler taught fourth grade in Sunnyvale ISD for 21 years. She retired in 2009.
“Mrs. Wheeler's passion in education is memorable to anyone who walked into her classroom,” Sunnyvale Alumni Association President Codie Stidham Lunt (SJH ‘99) said. “Her science class was what drew me to become a science teacher. I even used several of her strategies to teach my own students! She's truly a special teacher to so many and we're blessed to know her.”
Mrs. Wheeler began working for Sunnyvale ISD in 1988 after being hired by long-time Superintendent Gwinn Blankenship. Prior to then, she taught in Tennessee.
“I always felt there was a little Divine intervention that led us to Sunnyvale,” Mrs. Wheeler said. “Susan James Overstreet insisted I apply because it was, ‘the best school district.’ I visited the K-8 school, interviewed with Gwinn Blankenship and was hired! My husband found our property on East Fork Rd for the horses I was bringing to Texas along with my three daughters. It all happened over Spring Break. In the fall, the Sunnyvale family welcomed my daughters and me with open arms. I knew I had indeed found the best school district ever!
Over her years in the district, Mrs. Wheeler’s fourth grade Texas history students were given opportunities to visit the Alamo and the Texas State Capitol in Austin — allowing these historic Texas locations to come to life and be much more than an image or article in a history book. However, it was a trip to the Fort Worth Stockyards that inspired those Austin and San Antonio field trips and ultimately led Mrs. Wheeler to become the bus driver who drove so many students in Sunnyvale to so many games and events over the years.
“We took our students to the Ft. Worth Stockyard — a perfect field trip complete with a steam locomotive train ride and a longhorn cattle drive,” Mrs. Wheeler said. “However, school had been dismissed and students were waiting on the sidewalk for our driver to return so they could go home! I was scared to death they wouldn’t let us go and I didn’t want the children to miss out on such a great experience so I got my School Bus Commercial Drivers License. It wasn’t long before Ron Hounsel asked me to drive a route!”
Mrs. Wheeler’s love and dedication to animals and agriculture inspired lessons (and so many memories) over the years. Many Raiders remember learning in Mrs. Wheelers’s garden and seeing live animals under her supervision and care.
“Springtime brought hatching chicks and Critter Corner. The critters had to be happy and properly contained and that didn’t mean a student’s pocket!” Mrs. Wheeler said. “The most unusual critter was a 5 ft. albino ball python!”
The garden started as an engaging way to combine math and science, along with real-world situations that farmers face trying to raise their crops and get them to market, Mrs. Wheeler said.
“The children did all the measuring, planting, weeding, and watering,” Mrs. Wheeler said. “At first the lettuce harvest was used in the cafeteria as well as being sent home with the students. The original garden was planted on the site that was chosen for our ‘new’ cafeteria. It had been extremely hard to get the soil prepared so when the time came for our garden, I approached the principal asking to do it at my home just a mile from school. He agreed. When the year ended, I asked the children if the garden for next year’s students should come back to school or stay at my house. It was unanimous. With the approval of the administration, the students came every year until I retired.”
Mrs. Wheeler tended her students as they tended their class garden: with hard work and dedication.
“Each year I wanted to challenge my students to be the best version of themselves they could be. I wanted them to learn to work hard and see they could achieve goals because of that hard work and find pride in their accomplishments and themselves.
Mrs. Wheeler and her husband, Jerry raised three Sunnyvale Raiders: Susan, Holly, and Stephanie. Her grandsons, Wyatt Grubbs and Eli Grubbs now continue the tradition at SHS.