Retired educator learning about community through volunteer efforts
December 2, 2011
Janet Sheridan bio:
Occupation: Retired educator, newspaper columnist
Volunteer activities: Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association board member; former Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition board member; speaker at annual Girls to Women conference
“All you need to do is listen and ask good questions as you learn.”
— Janet Sheridan, this year’s Georgina McAnally Volunteer of the Year award recipient
"All you need to do is listen and ask good questions as you learn."
— Janet Sheridan, this year's Georgina McAnally Volunteer of the Year award recipient
Janet Sheridan, 69, said she has reached a point in life where the pace slows and the workload lessens.
Retirement seems to suit the longtime teacher.
She now has time for trips to see her grandchildren, for outdoor excursions with her husband, Joel, and for honing her writing craft.
One could get the impression the days of taking on new challenges may be long over for Sheridan, but don't let first blush confuse reality.
Since retiring from the Moffat County School District in 2001, she's delved into the realms of health and dental care by working with local nonprofit agencies.
"My primary motivation is to give back to this community that I really enjoy," said Sheridan, who has lived in Craig for about 15 years and also works as a Craig Daily Press columnist. "I like living in Craig, and I'm at a point in my life where I can return something to the community.
"If I'm going to do that, I would like to learn about different organizations that serve the community apart from the field of education."
The roles are reversed, and the teacher has now become the student.
Sheridan said she wouldn't have it any other way.
Portrait of a volunteer
Volunteerism isn't new for Sheridan. She's been doing it since she came to Craig in the late 1990s and began serving on a board designed to purchase the cowboy collection for the Museum of Northwest Colorado, she said.
Sheridan's long history of volunteerism was one of the reasons she was selected for the Boys & Girls Club of Craig's Georgina McAnally Volunteer of the Year award, said Dana Duran, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Colorado.
"She's kind and compassionate and such a pillar of what we do, especially with children," Duran said. "Her knowledge about how to work with kids … transcends the school district, and she has offered the Boys & Girls Club support, I think, since our inception."
She's also been the keynote speaker for the Girls to Women conference, which the club puts on annually for eighth-grade girls.
"I just kind of outline some of the pivotal decisions that we make when we're very young that we live with for a long time," Sheridan said.
She knows about choices that can shape a life. She decided to become a fourth-grade teacher when she was a young girl, she said.
She fulfilled that ambition, working as an elementary school teacher in Carson City, Nev. She also was an English teacher and a principal there before moving to Craig in 1996 and becoming director of curriculum and staff development for the school district.
Her career, it turned out, also was her joy.
"When I entered that first classroom of my own, I knew I'd made the right choice," she said. "It just seemed like a magical place to me — interacting with young, fresh minds. It was very exciting."
Sheridan volunteers occasionally with the school district, she said, but she hasn't made a long-term commitment to do so.
Instead, she decided to branch out into new experiences, which included a six-year stint on the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition's board.
"I went into that because as a teacher, I had seen the impossibility of children attending and learning when their teeth hurt," she said. "I felt like dental health was overlooked and yet had great impact on children."
Sheridan's learning curve was steep. She had to learn everything from the kind of equipment used in a dental office to what it takes to recruit a dentist.
"I remember they were having a discussion with some sales reps about the kind of X-ray equipment that's most appropriate," she said. "And it was like I had entered a new world with a new vocabulary."
Learning, though, is part of the process.
"You have to just know that the first several months up to a year is just going to be learning, and you're not expected to be an expert and know how to direct the staff," she said. "All you need to do is listen and ask good questions as you learn."
By the time executive director Janet Pearcey came on board in 2007, Sheridan was "really savvy," Pearcey said.
It wasn't solely Sheridan's knowledge that left an impression on the director.
"If I needed anything, I could count on her to help me or to gather information," Pearcey said. "… She was just somebody that you could call at any time and she would be there for whatever you needed assistance doing."
Sheridan resigned from the Dental Coalition board in spring 2010, she said, but she hasn't stepped away from board service completely.
She also is a member on the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association board, where she's served for six years.
She's been taking a break since she resigned from the Dental Coalition board, she said, but eventually, she'd like to pick up another kind of volunteer work.
Sheridan doesn't know exactly what that will be yet.
If her past choices are any indicator, though, it will probably be in a field unfamiliar and intriguing.
"It takes a while as a volunteer in a different field to learn enough (so) you feel you're worthwhile," Sheridan said. "But oh, it's interesting."