Influential Women: Emily Stonelake
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi all! I live in Milwaukee but am from a small town in up north Wisconsin so I am a country girl at heart. I am teaching special education at a high school in Milwaukee as well as coaching volleyball and track as well as run my own Etsy shop. I’ve been married for almost a year, to my husband Cody, and we have a very spoiled pup. Cody and I met at Camp Daniel and we volunteer their every summer together.
Describe the job you have right now:
Right now, I am teaching an academic resource class at a charter school in Milwaukee. My students have learning disabilities so my job is primarily to make them independent in their studies and give extra instruction when they need extra support. I also coach volleyball and track and my favorite thing is when my students are on the teams and I can see them expand their abilities.
In what ways does your job impact the community or the people you encounter through your job?
I directly teach about 16 students each day. I work with them to achieve academic success and I try each day to help develop their character and make them good students and good people. I spend most of my time at school working one of one with kids who need extra help in classes and I push them to be better every day. I work with my seniors a lot about transitioning to college and becoming more independent and develop self advocacy skills. With coaching, I spend my time after school working with about 30 kids in sports. The biggest impact that I try to have on these kids is the importance of hard work and dedication. Too often, we have kids complaining about working hard or that it is too much work, but I work to push them harder to achieve their full potential.
Do you think your job is the primary way you have influence? Or are there things you are involved in outside of your job that have a greater impact on the community or people you encounter?
My job is the primary influence in the Milwaukee area but I also spend my summer at Camp Daniel and I hope to think I have an influence on the community at camp. Camp is a whole different community and culture of people than who I work with in Milwaukee. Each summer I spend 5-6 weeks at camp volunteering and supporting children and adults with developmental disabilities. Within that community is a huge population of young adults who are counseling and since I started working with high school aged students, I have pushed myself to be a better counselor to be a good example for them.
What do you consider the most important way you are impacting your community or the people you encounter?
I think the most important way I am impacting people is the character building that comes with teaching and coaching. I strive for my students to be academically sound, but my main concern is building up their character as young adults and helping them become better people through persistence, hard work, and self advocacy. I think my role at camp is also important. I have been there for over 10 years so I normally get placed with campers with more severe disabilities. The most important thing I learned and put to use at camp is how to be a counselor but more importantly, a friend. Instead of just being there to take care of somebody, I have been able to make lasting friendships with the campers and have influence in their lives longer than one week of camp.
What kinds of challenges do you face at work or at Camp Daniel?
The challenges that come up in teaching mainly revolve around my students attitudes and effort. If a student is struggling and has a great attitude and tries really hard, it is so easy to help them even if it takes a long time to re-teach the content to them. If a student doesn't try or doesn't really care to work hard to learn something, it is extremely frustrating for me to motivate and work with them because most of the time, I feel like my effort isn't even doing anything to help the kids. It takes a lot of patience and motivation for me to continue working with them and doing all that I can to help them even though I have that frustration. As the school year goes on, it gets harder and harder to keep up this mentality especially when students continue to not care or not try to be the best they can be. This exhausted feeling carries over to the challenges I face at camp. At camp, you are only working with a specific person for a week, but you are with them the entire week with no breaks. Again, I have to push myself to keep the patience and keep the motivation going for the entire week even if it is frustrating and tiring.
What joys do you experience?
Even through all the challenges, I come away from a week of camp or a week of teaching with joy, exhaustion, and the willingness to do it all again the next week. When I see a student grow from year to year, it is such a positive thing to see. When I run IEP meetings and I get to say, "he is doing SO much better than last year!" or, "I don't have to worry too much about her grades this year!" those are the things that fill me with joy. When I see a camper have fun and make friends with other campers or counselors, it just fills me with happiness. When I laugh and makes jokes and connections with my campers, it gives me hope for all the positive relationships that come out of camp. When students go on to do successful things in college, I feel pride in knowing that I had a tiny part of helping them get there. Sometimes I get frustration with teaching or get tired at camp, but writing these down makes me remember and realize how much joy each of these things brings to me and why I am doing them.
What drives you?
I am driven by the desire to succeed and be the best I can be. Right behind that is the desire to make my students, campers, and athletes the best that they can be. When I see students improve, athletes get faster, and campers happier, the drive to help deepens. The reward of seeing those things happen is just more of a push for me to keep doing what I do and keep being the best teacher, coach, and counselor that I can be.
Another thing that I haven't mentioned much is my Etsy shop/small business. I am driven to make things that people enjoy. Satisfaction comes when I get a message from a customer telling me that they love what I have created. It just increases my love for creating things and drives me to make more things and create more products.
What goals do you have in the future?
Thinking about my goals for the future, I don't even know if I can list them all. My teaching goals are to make my students as independent as they can be, create them to be self-advocates, help them build character and become good citizens and friends after they leave high school. My goals for my athletes are for them to work as a team and to become better individually. M track athletes (hopefully) know that my only athletic goal for them is to improve upon their previous standings. I strive to be a great counselor at camp and that somebody is able to look at how I counsel and take examples from that. My goal for my Etsy shop is that I make enough to create better quality products, more products, and enough to keep it running for a long time.
What do you hope for your legacy to be?
As for a legacy, I want to be able to be somebody people can look up to and count on. I want my students to know that even when they leave high school, they can always contact me if they need anything. I want to be known as a coach who pushes her athletes and makes them work hard, but who is also compassionate and fair. I want to be an example of what a great counselor should be. I want to be somebody that people can count on at camp and be a resource and help.