ELDON — You may not care about whether you go to school. But Ms. Kildow cares, and she will find you.
Cardinal school district’s “Vision Alternative High School” teacher Heidi Kildow was just named Educator of the Year by the Iowa Association for Alternative Education.
“She grew up in Eldon and knows everybody,” said her boss, Cardinal Superintendent Joel Pedersen. “She’ll call the parents or uncle or aunt to find out why the student is not in school.”
For her part, Kildow, who’s going on nine years in the district, seems cheerfully stubborn. “I’ll go to their home. One girl, I went right into her room and said, ‘Get out bed; you’re going to school.’”
Pedersen said Kildow knows what the general public does not about programs that work with kids in need. That it’s some of the brightest, not the most troubled, who go through Cardinal’s alternative high school. Often, they’re facing challenges that hurt their grades but are not scholastic: trouble at home, a failure to connect at the regular high school or some serious personal problems that could be difficult even for an adult.
“I have conversations with my kids in school, out of school, in the summer, on weekends. I send out 6,000 texts a month,” she said. “At least 5,000 of those go to kids and parents.”
She didn’t go to college for her teaching degree until she was 35. Maybe being a mom at that time helped her. “I knew that I loved students, especially the more at-risk students.”
Her own son was “ornery” in school. And in 13 years of school, she received only one positive phone call about him. Maybe that’s why she contacts parents so much and why parents are so supportive.
“I have a lot of support from the school board, the school, the parents, the community … and I have great kids,” she said.