Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 9, 2013

Teacher spent career caring for Kokomo’s children

Valerie Canady worked tirelessly for her students

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— Valerie Canady dedicated her life to creating learning opportunities for all students in Kokomo.

“She was tireless in that effort,” said former co-worker Ted Schuck. “She was just a great person.”

Canady, 59, died Friday at Community Howard Regional Health.

She had worked in Kokomo-Center Schools for 30 years.

She started teaching students with learning disabilities at Boulevard Elementary School. Then she taught fourth-graders at the school for 10 years. She ended her career as a fifth-grade teacher at Maple Crest Elementary School, said Dave Barnes, director of communications for Kokomo-Center Schools.

Other teachers and principals she served with described her as “outgoing” and “innovative.”

“As her principal, she was always coming to me with ideas to help the kids,” Schuck said.

She started the Boulevard Reading Club to get her students and the rest of the school interested in books.

Kids could earn T-shirts or trips to Kokomo Wildkat basketball games by reading.

Not many local schools at the time had programs like that for all students, Schuck said.

It’s not surprising Canady launched the program, though, said Dave Buckalew, who was principal at Maple Crest when Canady worked there.

“[She] hoped all children would develop a love of reading,” Buckalew said. “She planned wonderful reading activities with the children ... and made reading come alive for the children.”

She was recognized as the 1988 State of Indiana Teacher of the Year. During that time she taught kids with learning disabilities.

Friend and co-worker Pennye Siefert said Canady understood the challenges those children faced.

“She helped those students be successful academically while improving their self-esteem,” Siefert said. “Valerie challenged students to aspire for more.”

She cared about every child she ever met and made an effort to get to know him or her as an individual, Buckalew said.

When she saw a child in need, she helped.

Siefert said Canady was so generous that if one of her students needed a coat for the winter, she would go out and find one so no child had to go without.

Because of that, many of her students kept in touch with her after they graduated.

Siefert said: “Thinking about Valerie Canady in the classroom reminds me of a Khalil Gibran quote: ‘To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to.’ Replace ‘person’ with ‘child’ in that Gibran quote, and that is what Valerie Canady did in her classroom.”