only does Christine VonDissen help everyday items go through a process
of renewal through her recycling program at Scottsburg Middle School,
she also helps people go through a process of a renewal, caring for each
one along the way.
“I have always been a helper, explainer, and
supporter,” said VonDissen, a special education teacher at Scottsburg
Middle School. “I played teacher from about 4-years-old on, holding
class-time with my dogs and dolls; I guess it was just in my blood.”
coming to work at SMS, VonDissen worked with teenagers at Englishton
Park in Lexington, Ind., a residential program that helped teenage boys
with behavior disorders. The program was a partnership between Three
Springs, the Madison Area Special Services Unit and the Indiana
Department of Education.
“I always wanted to help troubled teens,”
VonDissen said. “[Englishton Park] started out as a fabulous program,
and we really did change lives. […] There were three teachers and each
of us taught a wide variety so the boys were able to stay on track or
get back on their academic track. Most of the boys were adjudicated
there but private placement was always accepted.”
VonDissen’s willingness to help others, especially those in difficult circumstances, stems from her upbringing in Michigan.
think coming from such a caring family and being the youngest, so I was
naturally spoiled with love, made me the caring person I am in life,”
VonDissen said. “Being loved unconditionally and constant support showed
me that others in life are not so lucky, so it is my hope to help
change that. I love helping the underdog, especially to show others how
wrong they are.”
Along with the love she received from her family,
VonDissen learned about the world as a child through her father, who
worked for American Airlines.
“My father worked for American
Airlines, so we traveled quite a bit. With each visit to a new culture,
he made it so important that we understood that there were differences
in people and yet we are all similar,” VonDissen said. “He wanted us to
appreciate the rich diversity of life. It made teaching a perfect match
for me to spend my life with others.”
A few years after the
Englishton Park program ended, the opportunity for VonDissen to work at
SMS became available, and she took it.
“This is a fabulous school
district, and when the opportunity became available at the middle
school, I knew instantly that is where I wanted to teach,” VonDissen
At SMS this year, VonDissen started a school-wide recycling project. A similar project is used at Scottsburg High School.
reached out to see if the staff would be interested in participating in
a recycling program; the response was tremendous,” VonDissen said.
kick off the program at SMS, VonDissen contacted the Southeastern
Indiana Solid Waste District and gave each teacher a recycling bin for
their classroom. Each week, VonDissen and her class collect the
recyclable materials — paper, which is called fiber; cardboard, which is
corrugated not thick; No. 2 plastic; and aluminum, along with tin from
the kitchen, she said.
On Mondays, the class goes to the
sixth-grade wing; on Tuesdays, the class goes to the seventh-grade wing;
and on Wednesdays, the class goes to the eighth-grade wing. Each day,
the class checks the recycling bins in the gymnasium, the teachers’
lounge, and the media center. On Friday, the students perform a full
sweep of the middle school to make sure no recyclables are left in the
bins over the weekend.
Through it all, VonDissen encourages her students to make good choices.
always tell my students, ‘They cannot take away from you what you
know.’,” VonDissen said. “Another big one is ‘Two wrongs don’t make a
The small changes VonDissen makes in the lives of her
students results in a big impact over time. At Scott County School
District 2, VonDissen’s story is our story. Your story matters. You