NMU alumna Shelley O'Dowd ('70 MAE) was recently surprised with 80th birthday treats and balloons from her colleagues at Pennfield High School in Battle Creek, where she continues to have a meaningful impact on students as a special education teacher. Neither the COVID-19 virus nor the increased emphasis on technology for remote instruction could deter the lung cancer survivor from returning for her 36th year at the school.
According to an Associated Press (AP) feature story, O'Dowd said she feels a strong connection to her students, in part because she herself has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. That continues to be the case, even though the pandemic prevents her from seeing them in person.
“I so love what I do and I try to learn more all the time,” she said. “To get to know my kids is huge. Developing a relationship every year is so important because they want to learn when they know you love them. There is so much love and commitment in this school. In 36 years, there has never been a day I don't want to be here. I feel so blessed.”
Perhaps the greatest demonstration of O'Dowd's commitment and enduring legacy is the fact that her three daughters became special education teachers in west Michigan.
In addition to a master's degree in special education for cognitive impairment from NMU, O'Dowd hold's a bachelor's and master's from two other state institutions. Read the full AP story on her impressive career longevity here.