Sharon Bell (Courtesy Photo)
Sharon Bell has taught German at Goddard High School for more than 20 years, but if you ask students how old she is, they’ll say she’s 19. It may just be an inside joke Bell shares with her pupils, but the fifty-something Texas native is truly young at heart.
“I get so much from the students and I love that,” she said. “I really think I’m one of the more fortunate teachers at Goddard because I have the chance to have them for four years. They become a part of my life and that to me is the greatest advantage to being a German teacher.”
Bell’s great-grandfather was a German immigrant, but she’ll be quick to say that’s not why she learned the language.
“I had a crush on a boy who studied German and I wanted to be able to speak German with him,” she said.
Bell instead fell in love with the language; rather than teach it, she originally planned to become an international attorney, and attended classes at Texas Tech University. There, she happened to fall in love again, this time with Steven Bell, a law student who studied French. Four days after their first date, she and Steven got engaged. Steven now serves as a judge in the 5th Judicial District Court.
After receiving a masters in German, Bell reluctantly began teaching — and fell in love a third time. When she arrived in Roswell, there were no teaching jobs available, so she volunteered at schools around town. She also got into television broadcasting and produced and hosted a talk show on KBIM-TV for several years.
“It was lots of fun,” she said. “They paid me to talk!”
After the station’s sale, she committed fully to teaching and has taught at both Roswell High and Goddard. In her free time, Bell also teaches German to kindergarteners and first-graders at Washington Avenue Elementary. She also finds time to teach CCD classes to teens at Assumption Catholic Church.
Kristie Jurney, a kindergarten teacher at Washington Avenue, said it’s apparent Bell loves to teach and she loves children.
“What’s amazing to me is that she is an amazing kindergartner teacher; most teachers can’t stand that age gap,” she said. “Sharon is comfortable everywhere, with all students. She’s been blessed with a gift. Her students love her and our students love her.”
More than a language, Bell wants her students to learn “to appreciate who they are and how valuable they are.”
“When you realize your self-worth, you want to be the best you can be and you want to make the best choices,”she said.
Bell literally expands the worldview of her students through two different programs: one is a student and teacher exchange with a school in Germany, the other is a two-week tour of the country, which are independently funded by Bell and her students.
She has been to the country many times “but when you see it through the eyes of the kids, it’s a new experience.”
“I take some kids who have never flown; some have never been out of the state,” she said. “It’s just to show them there’s a big world out there.”
The tour involves language immersion as well as historical and culture exploration. The students experience all aspects of Germany, from the beautiful and scenic landscapes to its darker moments, such as Dachau. “It gets difficult, but it’s important,” she said.
Barbara Eiffert has two children taking Bell’s classes and last year, her daughter was one of the students who traveled to Germany. Eiffert called it a “life-changing event” that wouldn’t have been possible without Bell.
“She really, deeply cares for students as individuals,” Eiffert said, noting that Bell supports kids in and out of school by participating in events.
Eiffert nominated Bell to be recognized during this year’s Character Counts! in Chaves County Teacher of Character awards. Bell received the highest honor, the Gold Award.
“We’re just appreciative of her and her efforts above and beyond in the classroom,” Eiffert said. “She really does care about her students. Later in life, I know they’re going to appreciate that she wanted the best out of them. As a parent, I appreciate it.”
Bell is often asked if she plans to retire soon, but she said she won’t leave until she can find a suitable replacement, though she would like to have more time to see her two children and six grandchildren. She also wants to go back to school and “study all those things I didn’t have time for.”
“I just think we’re all teachers, we’re all students forever,” she said.
As her father used to tell her, “they can take a lot away from you, but they can never take your education.”