Waking up bright and early for school is a shared experience for many across the globe. Some wake up eager for another day in the classroom, some wish for another five minutes of sleep while for others, it's just part of their daily routine. For Immaculate Conception reading teacher Stacey Eisterhold, early school mornings never ended, and she tends to be one of the first people to arrive at school at 6:30 a.m.; even with living half an hour away. For Eisterhold, it’s more than just arriving to work to do her job, it’s her calling and dedication to creating lifelong learners.
Eisterhold has been teaching for 28 years and has touched thousands of lives in the process. She started her teaching journey at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Jefferson City and was there for eight years where she taught kindergarten and first grade. She then worked for a year at Fatima High School in Westphalia where she attended high school herself. There, she worked as the preschool director and the supervisor for the Parents As Teachers program.
“It was a great experience, but it was a lot of work and time, and I was a single mom,” Eisterhold said. “I also knew I wanted to get back into the classroom teaching, so I got a job teaching at Immaculate Conception school.”
She has called Immaculate Conception her home for 20 years. For the first 18 years, she taught fifth grade and then had the opportunity to become the middle school reading teacher. She has adored the position for the past two years and is excited to continue spreading the joy of reading to her students.
“I was ready to start teaching older students and teaching fifth grade, I taught many different subjects and reading was always my favorite to teach,” Eisterhold said.
Eisterhold explained that teaching to her is a special calling, a passion and a lifestyle because teachers are shaping the future. Many students see their teachers more hours than they see their own parents, and that's a big responsibility, she expressed.
“Every day when I teach, I’m going to teach these students as if they are my own children or grandchildren,” Eisterhold said. “I’m going to teach them the way I would want my own children to be taught, instruction-wise, respect-wise, relationship-wise and action-wise because as a teacher you inspire and touch lives.”
However, students aren’t the only people Eisterhold has impacted during her teaching career. Part-time middle school aide Lynn Gerstner has known Eisterhold for nearly 25 years and reflected fondly on working with her.
“In every facet of her teaching career, Stacey has been the type of teacher every parent wants for their child and a co-worker that every person wants to have on their team,” Gerstner said. “She is always positive, happy, kind and supportive. Her patient, calm demeanor allows her to fully embrace her students with love and understanding in all situations.”
Gernster was the reading teacher at Immaculate Conception before Eisterhold took over the position, and she watched her grow into her new role.
“She is an incredible leader who finds time to connect individually with each of her students throughout the course of the year,” Gerstner said. “She places importance on regular conferencing with each student and is able to support them based on their individual needs. She is also a master at designing lessons that allow students the opportunity to make personal choices for demonstrating their knowledge and showcasing their responses to what they have learned in her class.”
Originally from the small German Catholic community of Rich Fountain, Eisterhold moved to Jefferson City when she was 18 to attend Lincoln University and pursue a bachelor's in elementary education. She continued her education at Lincoln University and went for a master’s in curriculum and instruction, but due to personal hardships, Eisterhold withdrew from the program to focus on raising her family as a young, single mom.
Much like she encourages her students, Eisterhold herself is a lifelong learner and profoundly values the continuation of education. Due to the amount of time she was out of school, her credits did not qualify and she was unable to continue her master’s degree at Lincoln University. Determined to continue her education, an opportunity arose that she couldn’t refuse. Eisterhold’s principal at the Immaculate Conception mentioned a continuing education grant that the Diocese of Jefferson was offering to any teacher in the diocese. The grant would pay 90% of a teacher’s continuing education, so she applied in August 2022. Then, in December, she got the news that she was accepted for the grant. She officially started her master’s program in reading at William Woods University in January this year and will complete the program next summer.
On top of being a young, single mother, Eisterhold was born with ankyloglossia, a condition that restricts the tongue's range of motion, which results in speech difficulties. She explained that she was very self-conscious about talking but with therapy, she was able to overcome her impediment. She loves reading aloud and introducing her students to quality literature.
“I am always aware of my past struggles and insecurities, but I believe those challenges made me stronger and more resilient,” Eisterhold said.
As a reading teacher, she hopes to develop all her students into lifelong learners and encourages students to read for fun outside of the classroom. Her goals for her students are for them to strive for greatness and know that they can accomplish anything and that they are enough and loved.
“I believe that reading and teaching reading is the greatest of the arts because your medium is the human mind and the human spirit,” Eisterhold said. “Teaching is a special art, and it takes a special person to do it.”
Her advice for future teachers is to show up, work hard, love what you’re doing and have faith. Being a teacher is hard work, and it consumes a lot of extra time in the evenings. but it's very rewarding. She explained that it’s not something you go into for the money but to make a difference in the world.
“It takes a big heart to shape little minds,” Eisterhold said.