There’s something special about life in a small town. The sense of community that comes from knowing your neighbors generates a genuine desire for everyone to care about each other in a way that more closely resembles a family than a township. Vandalia fits that description for Cheri Lux, a Special Education teacher at Vandalia High School. Lux is a Vandalia native, and an alumna of Vandalia High School, so when her family moved back several years ago, it really was coming home in the truest sense for her. Now the mother of five, aged 6 to 16, Lux has an even deeper appreciation for her hometown and its strong community ties.
We Are Family.
Being an educator in the same school your children attend might pose certain challenges for some, but for Lux, it’s just another layer added to her sense of community. “I’ve had teachers reach out to me if they are worried about my student. And I think they would do that normally, anyway, but to encourage that has been nice. And to know they truly care about my kids,” she said. Lux was inspired to become an educator by a former high school teacher of hers, and she hopes to be able to inspire her students in much the same way. “[The] most important thing for me is to help students feel comfortable and accepted, and then challenge them to grow. And to think outside the box,” she said. As a history teacher, Lux often speaks to her students about things or events about which people will have their own opinions, and while she shares the information through a clear lens, rooted in evidentiary fact, she doesn’t believe it’s her job to tell her students how, or what, to think about it. “I want to give you the information, and I want you to tell me why you think what you think,” she tells her students. When asked what her greatest hopes for her students are, Lux said, “To love and accept others. To love and accept themselves, and know that everyone has value [including] themselves. To reach their full potential. And they can do that if they choose to do that.”
Teaching students how to think for themselves is how Lux is following in the footsteps of the teacher who inspired her. “She really pushed us to become learners,” Lux said of her former teacher, “Not just someone who [knows] an answer for the test, but you need to really push yourself in all areas,” Lux said. Giving students the ability to explore all areas of learning is something that Lux feels Vandalia schools do very well. “As a parent, the junior high is doing an amazing job of career searching,” she said. This career searching allows students to “dabble” in a little of everything, to find out what they’re interested in and what they aren’t. At the high school level, Lux said, the opportunities for a variety of classes, outside the core curriculum, is fantastic. Thinking again of her own children, Lux observed, “…Even though all of my children are very different, they’re finding areas to explore without being all the way in or all the way out. You know, so there’s opportunities here for them to explore within the walls of the classroom.”
Having previously taught in another school district for roughly 10-years before making the move to Vandalia around seven years ago, Lux said she instantly realized this was different from any other teaching experience she’d had in the past. She became emotional during our interview when talking about the wonderful welcome she received when she began working at Vandalia High School, and what it is that makes Vandalia special. “I know what it is,” she said with a quivering voice, “Whenever I came here, Mr. Protz said ‘We’re a family first.’ […] And in the time that we’ve been here, there has been example after example of the district being a family, and saying ‘You take care of your family first. We will support you however we can.’ And there’s no asterisk, or until-this-point, it’s always genuine, caring for one another. And I feel like when you’re cared for, you want to go above and beyond. I think that’s what it is.” No *. We like that.