Spotlight Series – “JB” Schneider
Your name is Julie Schneider but you go by “JB”? I go by JB because when I started Broadway there was another Julie in the building. We always used the teacher’s first name, “Teacher Sue”, “Teacher Mary.” If the parent called and said, “I need to talk to teacher Julie,” we would have to ask if it is the teacher or the speech therapist. So I just went by my initials.
Where were you born? I was born in Portland.
Where did you go to elementary school? I went to Catholic school called The Lady of Sorrows; it was in the Woodstock area of southeast Portland. I went to Franklin High School and graduated in the class of 1971.
What kind of high school student were you? I was somewhat studious, but I liked to go to the football and basketball games on Friday night. I did not belong to any clubs, just enjoyed hanging out with my friends.
When you graduated from high school, did you think right away that you wanted to be a speech therapist? My goal was always to be a speech therapist. In Oregon at the time, you needed to get a teaching degree first before being a speech therapist. I went the long way around and got my bachelors in teaching first, and then I moved to Arizona a picked up the courses I needed for the speech background and then got my masters in Clinical Speech Pathology.
Where did you go to college? The first college I graduated from was Eastern Oregon University with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education. As much as I liked the program, I knew I was not going to be a teacher. I wanted to be in speech therapy.
Why did you move to Arizona? I thought it was time to move away from home and be on my own – it was big, scary, and fun! I lived in Tucson; I loved Tucson. I got my degree at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. While finishing my masters, I did some work in a residential facility, a place for older people or people who cannot live at home anymore.
What did you want to do after you got your masters? I always wanted to work in the school system. However, I found I liked the medical/rehab aspect of it as well. I started working as my own employee; I contracted out for about a year. Then I was hired by the San Carlos Indian Reservation School District.
Where is the San Carlos Indian Reservation? San Carlos is east of Phoenix. I lived in a tiny town west of San Carlos called Miami. They called it ‘Miama’. It was a small mining town up in the hills.
Did you start working for a Native American school district? Yes, that is where I started when I went into the schools. It was a great learning experience. It was a great experience learning about their culture. I also felt what it was like being a minority.
Where did you work upon returning home? When I moved back, I started up at Northwest Continuum Care. I went back to the medical aspect of it and worked in nursing homes for quite a few years.
What made you leave the retirement industry? Medicare changed the way they billed, so many of us were laid off. My friend Becky Baumgartner, who I had met up at Northwest Continuum Care, told me there was an opening in the Longview School District.
What year was this? 1999.
Where was your first job in district? At that time, Broadway and St Helens were year around schools, so I split my time between both. I did that for 2-3 years. Then I took over the Head Start portion, so I did both Head Start and Broadway. After a few years, doing both programs began to be too much, so I only worked at Broadway.
What do you like best about your job? I like working with the kids. Trying to figure them out and seeing them get the “aha” moment when they got it! Helping those who do not have verbal communication find a way to communicate. Working with the people, my colleagues here. I work with and have worked with a bunch of great people here.
What is the hardest part of your job? The toughest part can sometimes be the kids because of the needs that they come with. The need is not only academic or communication but the need to feel safe and respected. Remembering that, when they are having a bad day, it is not them, they do not hate you. The kids need something besides speech therapy.
Does speech therapy include doing much paperwork? Yes, I would say the paperwork is also one of the toughest parts of the job. I would be much happier working with kids all day. There is too much paperwork.
What characteristics does a good speech therapist have? Of course, they need the knowledge behind it. But I think the ability to see where you need to push a little bit more or when you need to back off or adjust because the child is just not getting it. And just kind of figuring out the child, period. Almost like a puzzle. Whether it is autism or just a delay, it is figuring it out. And celebrating the child’s successes.
Do you have a system for figuring kids out? Trial and error. I know they talk about evidence based a lot. There are a lot of evidence-based programs in our tool bags, but a lot of it is trial and error. You keep testing until you get that method or strategy that works. When you do, you are off to the races.
When you get off work, what do you do? Many times, I run errands after work and then I go home and collapse. What I like to do is walk; I like to sign up for 5ks and 10ks. I also enjoy working in my flower beds when I have the time.
Have you walked in any races or fun runs? I have done the Astoria bridge walk quite a few times. I have walked four marathons, three Portland marathons and then, for my 60th birthday, I completed the Honolulu Marathon. So went from cold and snow in Portland to hot and humid in Honolulu.
How did you get into walking marathons? I was in Weight Watchers and the leader suggested we (a group of us) get together and start walking to build up our stamina and endurance for walking a marathon. I said, “Sure, sign me up.” I walked with the group as I could. I was working 2 jobs at the time. As the time for the marathon drew near, I said that I would meet the group there. The leader told me, “Well, there probably will be a lot of people there, we may not see each other.” She was right, so I walked my first marathon by myself.
Leading up to the marathon, what kind of training did you do? I would walk when I could; before work after work, on the weekends. I would walk around town, around the lake several times and walk at least 10 to 15 miles. Working two jobs did not leave a lot of time to do much more.
How many months of walking did you do before walking the marathon all by yourself? We started in February or March, building it up, and the Portland Marathon was in October of that year.
What did you learn from completing a marathon? That I could do anything I put my mind to. It is a great feeling of accomplishment.
Did you plan to complete more than one marathon? I was kind of non-committal the second one and I probably did not prepare myself as I should have. A friend asked if I would do one with her and I thought okay. Had to take many breaks. The third Portland marathon I did by myself again but had a cheering section (my friend Sue and her husband and son) at the end. Then the last one in Honolulu, my two friends from childhood went with me. One walked most of it with me. The other cheered us on. A friend who lives on Oahu (Irene Cleveland, former Longview School District OT) was going to walk it with me but ended up with an injury.
How did Honolulu get into this? Well Irene wanted to walk a marathon for her 40th birthday, which was in 2013. She was looking for a marathon that was also celebrating 40 years. Come to find out, the Honolulu marathon turned 40 the year before. We kept this date anyway and I had asked my childhood friends to join me in walking it. It took me over 10 hours to complete it due to the humidity.
Do you plan to do any more marathons? Probably not, but you never know. It is a lot of walking.
Tell me about the experience of a marathon – what were the fun parts? The fun parts were ticking off the miles. For the Portland marathon, they had a lot of music in the first part in the downtown area.
That was fun and kept you motivated. Crossing the finish line. Those were the best parts.
What were the worst parts? I think for me the worst part is listening to the self-doubt talk, your brain telling your body that it cannot do anymore. I really had to push past that. I really noticed it during the second and third marathons after only a few miles. Thank goodness for music, headphones, and friends to help push me through it.
If you had to coach someone that wanted to participate in a marathon, what would you tell him or her? I would tell them to get out there and walk 10 to 15 miles, so you know what it is like. Continue doing that and do not listen to your self-doubt. Also, sign up for 5 or 10ks. That is a fun way to train.
Do you think completing a marathon improved your life? Yes, I think so; I think it gave me more confidence in life. It made me feel like I could do anything.
Why did completing a marathon make you feel so good? Well, to endure walking 26.2 miles, it is something that not everybody does. It was a challenge for me a true challenge. So, yes, I can do anything I put my mind to.
What do you like to do when you are not walking? I like to garden and take care of my yard. I like to knit and to read and I used to like to bake a lot. Come July 1 I will have a lot of time because I will retire.
What do you read? I am not reading right now. I find it too hard with working and the time. I like to read mysteries, biographies, and some political books. I cannot wait for summer to come so I won’t feel guilty reading books (when other things are waiting to be done). I have Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” waiting for me to read.
What do you plan to do in retirement? I think the first couple of years I am going to keep it low key, until I figure out the finances and everything. Probably I will go to visit my nieces, one lives in California and one in Arizona. Just make some simple trips. I will do some kayaking, just kind of ease into it.
Is retirement a little frightening? It is very frightening, because it is not scheduled, it is not my routine, and it is the unknown. Now, we have summer break then school. You are back into your structure and routine. I won’t have that this year. I think routine is very important for me. It is safe; you know what is going to happen.
Could you plan to walk another marathon? No, I have been there done that. Maybe a 5k or a 10k but I don’t think so. I won’t say never, but just not right now.
Why is it that when someone has achieved a lofty goal they don’t want to go back and do it again?
For me it is because you know the effort and mind set it takes. I have completed 4 marathons. For me, that is great. Now my goals are more for fun, such as 5 or 10k walks.
Has school changed much in the last 20 years? Yes, you see different swings in theories.
For someone who has not been in school for 20 years, what would you tell the public? I would tell the public that public education is so worth it. We have a mandate to provide education to all; we cannot pick and choose who we educate. The teachers are caring and giving and generous. They make their students feel safe and special. But it only works when parents are involved.
Do you think public schools are undersold? I think it is getting that way. They are always blaming public schools for something and I don’t think it is fair. I think that some think charter schools are the panacea for the “problems” of public education.
Are schools more than a place to learn now? Yes. We are not just educating kids anymore; we’ve become a counselor to them, a doctor to them, like a parent at school. It is like the whole package, not just teaching them to read and write. It is much more than teaching used to be.
What haven’t you told me that you would like to? That I have truly enjoyed working for the Longview School District. I feel that they have been innovative in some of the programs that they do. I have seen change, especially in Special Education and I think administration really tries to make it an excellent education. We feel all the stuff that comes down from the legislature, it impacts what we do and I don’t think that the legislature really understands some of the impacts, especially if they haven’t been in the school. I think that is our biggest obstacle.
How do we change that? I think through positive public relations and getting out there helping in the community. Let the public in, not that they are not invited in, but give them a chance to come in and visit a classroom without making comments or anything. Let them see what the teachers actually do and the wonderful things the teachers do to help the students.