SURROUNDED BY her pre-K students, Tami Schumacher is exactly where she always wanted to be.
As a child of a stay-at-home mom, she played school and knew she wanted to be a teacher and a mama. Working at daycares as soon as she was old enough affirmed her heart’s desires. She loved children and the idea of being surrounded by them for life. She set her career path at an early age, but her journey to the head of the classroom would not be easy.
Schumacher’s normal childhood was interrupted by a lupus diagnosis when she was 16. Many high school events that bookmark our memories are absent from hers, replaced with homebound lessons and half days in the classroom. But what was not missing was the dream and desire to become a teacher.
Schumacher said, “After I was diagnosed, and I knew that it was more severe because it was affecting my organs, we sat down and talked about what the doctor said, and my parents told me, ‘You’re still going to be able to do what you want to do; you’re going to get through this. You might have to find a different way to do things, and it may not look like you thought, but you’re strong enough to do it. You’re going to find a way to become a teacher, and you’re going to find a way to have the things you want in your life.’ And they never let me feel sorry for myself.”
With the support of her parents and older sister, Schumacher pushed ahead through college and obtained the early education degree that opened the door to her teaching dream. It’s the door of Ralph Askins Elementary, and she has walked through it countless times in her 16 years as a pre-K teacher.
Schumacher’s life is filled with home and everything that makes Fayetteville home — students, staff, community, her family, and friends. It is especially filled with children to love and nurture, fulfilling her dream of becoming a mama.
“I always wanted to do the littles. Then, as I got a bit older and realized that I wouldn’t be able to have children, I got that mommy role a little bit. When you’re in pre-K, all learning gets to be fun. I think that’s what drew me to it, being able to nurture and have that kind of relationship with them. They’re just happy and love learning,” she said.
However, Schumacher became very sick during her first few years of teaching. Chemo was necessary to help her immune system get back on track, but she showed up for class through it.
“I came to work, and that always helps more than anything — having a purpose, coming in, and having that distraction,” she said. “It’s all about the kids because when they’re 4 and 5, they don’t really understand [you’re sick], so you can’t sit around and dwell on it. I think that was the biggest thing.”
Motherhood came in due time as a foster mom.
Schumacher said, “We had a little girl for two years. She was 3 when she came to us, and she was almost 6 when she had to go back home. That was very rewarding, but it was very hard when she left.”
She also spends quality time with her two nieces and nephews, fulfilling her love of children.
Despite the challenges of lupus and fibromyalgia, she looks forward to being there for her students. It’s all possible thanks to the support of her family, friends, co-workers, and her faith.
“I feel I’ve been able to do all these things because of my faith in God. Even at your darkest times, He can get you through anything,” Schumacher said. “I really try to look for the joy and blessings in everything. I’ve learned that from getting sick at such a young age. Even when it’s not good, there’s always good things around you. That, and finding something I love to do, has been a blessing.”
Schumacher is doing what she loves, where she loves to be. She’s home.
She said, “I’ve always felt very loved here. It’s a very loving community. Anytime I got sick, they were always there to help in any way they could. One of the people in pre-K was there when I started student teaching, and we’ve been teaching buddies since I got here. And she’s such a support. And I’ve had wonderful aides that have been such a support. One of the great things about pre-K is I have an aide with me. Because I get tired so easily and have many doctor’s appointments, it’s really nice to have people I know I can depend on who love me.”
While life may have turned out a little differently than she imagined, her eyes of faith see God has blessed, strengthened, and fulfilled her.
“I credit my parents for pushing me, for not letting me sit in my feelings or feel sorry for myself because I think that can be a real detriment. You can’t push through when you have that kind of attitude,” said Schumacher.
She is pushing through one day at a time, surrounded by her sweet students and the good she finds around her.
There’s no place like home. GN