Steamboat Springs Jerry Buelter said it wasn’t so much what Beth Wendler did with the students at Steamboat Springs Middle School that made her stand out, nor was it just her actions to bring the community in to help her project in the school.
It was both, plus everything else she did in her years as a volunteer at the middle school that made her an obvious choice for the Friend of Education Award presented Monday night at the Steamboat Springs School Board meeting.
“She’s always got a big smile on her face and she’ll do anything you ask her to do to help the kids,” said Buelter, who has served as the school’s assistant principal for many years and is moving up to take over as principal next year.
“She’s just an obvious choice,” he said.
Wendler has helped run an in-school store that opened in 2009. The currency for that store — most of the currency, anyway — is cards handed out to students for good behavior.
The goods are exactly the kinds of things that make middle schoolers drool, items like Nerf toys, jewelry, root beer floats and pizza.
“We sold pizza once a month on Wednesdays and there are consistently 70 kids there banging down the doors,” Wendler said.
The program has proven so popular it draws long lines of giddy children when the store is open, and even children swapping cards among themselves, trading for, say, help on homework.
Wendler tackled the challenge the store provided by reaching out to the entire student body as well as to parents and businesses in the community.
“She comes in and embraces all 500 of our students,” Buelter said. “She runs the store, but it’s not just that. You always see her around school. Whatever she can do to help, she will do.
“She has also brought the community into our school. We have several community groups that, because of her work, they came in to support our students.”
Buelter said now was the perfect time to thank Wendler, because her own children are transitioning from middle school to high school.
“There are so many amazing volunteers in our community and so many parents who are committed to our kids,” Wendler said. “To be singled out is really such an honor. I work side by side with women who are there as much as I am, doing as much as I do, so this is really an honor to be recognized.”