While pushing a mop up and down the hallways at Humboldt Elementary School in St. Joseph, Missouri, Brian Shindorf found himself longing to be a teacher.
He passed classrooms of teachers and students laughing and having fun, and he thought about how lucky the teachers were.
"I started looking in there thinking, these people have it made," Shindorf said. "I mean, how fun is that?"
Thirty-four years later, Shindorf is retiring from a career in various education roles. He has spent the past four years as the chief of learning for the Jefferson City School District, and his last day is June 30.
While working as a custodian one day, Shindorf told his friend, a kindergarten teacher at the school, how lucky she was to engage with children all day.
"I said, 'Man, that would just be awesome to do that, and she said to me, 'Brian, why don't you just stop talking about it, and why don't you go do it,'" Shindorf said. "And honestly, I didn't even know what she meant."
It never occurred to him to go to college to become a teacher until she suggested it to him. The next day, Shindorf met with an advisor at Missouri Western State University. After seven years of working days as a janitor and taking night classes, he finally earned his bachelor's degree. The day he graduated, the Humboldt Elementary principal offered him a job as a fourth-grade teacher.
Shindorf planned on teaching for the rest of his career until the Humboldt Elementary principal told him he would do well in a leadership position. After teaching for five years and earning his master's degree in school administration, he was hired as a principal in the same school district.
He was a principal for seven years before becoming an assistant superintendent for the district. He was an assistant superintendent for 10 years while earning his doctorate from the University of Missouri. After 30 years at the St. Joseph School District, he was ready for something new.
In 2016, Shindorf and his family moved three-and-a-half hours away to Jefferson City so he could work at JC Schools. After meeting the leadership team, he was inspired by the work they were doing and the goals they wanted to achieve, and he wanted to be a part of that growth, he said. He was hired as the director of elementary education, and he became the chief of learning a year later.
Shindorf said his biggest accomplishment throughout his career was establishing a department and process for developing quality curriculum and providing teachers the resources they need. While there is still work to be done, he said, he is proud of that accomplishment because teachers are now better equipped to teach students.
"I'm excited about that work, because I believe that we were expecting things of our educators that just were incredibly difficult for them to do because they didn't have what they needed to do it," he said.
Shelby Scarbrough, the current human resources director for JC Schools, was named last month as Shindorf's replacement.
For the district to continue to improve, Shindorf said, Scarbrough will need to support the teachers by finding out what they need and providing it to them because there will always be room for improvement.
"We can't do better for kids if we don't have the stuff we need, and you can't get the stuff we need unless the people making the decisions are listening and providing them," he said.
Shindorf said his advice to Scarbrough is to keep a broad perspective of all the pieces that come with the job because these pieces must work together. His other advice is to be strong and consistent and to seek input to make the best decisions for the school district.
"If it's the right thing to do, move forward and be strong with it and know that you're doing the right thing," he said.
Shindorf said his favorite part of his career was the people he's worked with — children and adults. He enjoyed working with his colleagues to accomplish their goals because he couldn't have done it alone. He said he's thankful for his time at JC Schools and the people he worked with.
"They've been great to me," he said. "It's a great team — a lot of potential, and I'm excited about them moving forward."
This article was edited at 11:10 a.m. March 2, 2020, to correct Shindorf's retirement date.