1st Grade Elementary Teacher
On a window ledge in Teresa Stroop's first-grade classroom sits a black, three-ring binder whose contents this Heritage teacher cherishes. In cutout letters and shapes, it's labeled "The Stroop Troops." Inside its covers are slip-covered pages with class photographs of every student she has taught during her 27 years at Heritage Christian School.
Over the years, the pictures have migrated from black-and-white to color. The hairstyles and clothing have changed. The classroom and grade levels have varied. Yet, says Stroop, one thing never has. She firmly believes that every student comes to school with a need to feel loved and accepted. "At the end of the day," she explains, "the most important thing is that students know God's love. Education is really important, but they need to feel the love of Christ here, too."
I'll never forget any of them. They'll always have a piece of my heart.
And love them she does. As soon as she receives her classroom list during the summer, Stroop begins to pray by name for each of her incoming students. "It's such a privilege to be their teacher. I have the best job in the whole world," she says. Sometimes, love finds its expressions in the smallest of ways; a hug, a smile. Other times, it's in helping and comforting students when they face tough circumstances. "I want to be a cheerleader for my kids," she explains. "In whatever they're dealing with, I want to be able to point everything to Jesus. It's so exciting to see what God can do; how He can work in a life in ways you don't even expect."
Stroop says she sees her students grow over the course of the school year, especially as they learn to pray for and serve others. Every morning, her class prays specifically for orphaned children at a school in Mexico. Twice each year, they write letters to U.S. soldiers. Exercises like these, she says, cultivate compassion and set an example for a faith that serves.
Her teacher's heart may come in part from a family dedicated to education. Her mother taught in the Westfield school system for 30 years. At one point in her Heritage career, Stroop served alongside her brother, Gary Walker, who was the Elementary School principal during the '80s. Her son, Chris (HCS '99) is a senior lecturer at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow.
Outside the classroom, Stroop shares her skill and love for writing with eager elementary students who join the after-school Creative Writing Club. One day, she'd like to write children's books; maybe even co-write a children's musical with her husband. But for now, her life is full of all the things she loves best; school, church and family (both of her children are Heritage grads: Chris Stroop ('99) and Holly (Stroop) McDaniel ('2000).
Every now and then, Stroop receives a visit from one of her former students, whose picture she keeps in her homemade scrapbook. "I'll never forget any of them," says Stroop. "They'll always have a piece of my heart."