LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Carrie Schlehuber

Position: Director of Secondary Special Education
School: Charles Page High School
School District: Sand Springs Public Schools
City, State: Sand Springs, OK

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Carrie Schlehuber was nominated by her colleague, Claudia Smith.

Ms. Schlehuber has spent 20 years in education as a speech pathologist, special education teacher, and a special education coordinator. She is now serving as the director of secondary special education for Sand Springs Public Schools, where she has worked since 2003. She has also served as a Special Olympics coach and a youth and varsity cheerleading coach. With many of these responsibilities running concurrently, little time was left for being ill, but that's exactly what has happened for most of her career.

In 2004, Ms. Schlehuber was diagnosed with Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease, a common genetic kidney disorder that is treatable, but not curable. Her kidneys were the size of footballs and were failing. She was in pain. She wasn't approved for the donor list until November 2017, and the search began. Frank and Sally, the affectionate names given to her kidneys, were to be harvested and replaced with a healthy kidney. However, finding an exact match takes time, and Ms. Schlehuber was weeks away from dialysis.

Unbeknownst to her, however, one of her best friends and neighbors, Susan Cox, was going through testing and was found to be a match. In the middle of church service one Wednesday evening, Ms. Cox asked for prayers for an impending surgery. Ms. Schlehuber found that ironic, as she was scheduled for surgery that same day. When their eyes met, Ms. Schlehuber almost dropped to her knees. Ms. Cox's kidney, Lola, was transplanted July 19th, 2018.

“Carrie battled through her kidney disease for years, coming to school even when she probably should have stayed home so that her responsibilities at school were not neglected," said Megan Elliott, a colleague. "Once she received her new kidney, she worked from home and was available via phone or email. I doubt she even took off work a week!

Ms. Schlehuber is organized and thorough. She attends every meeting she can. She is willing to do anything needed to make sure a student succeeds.

While teaching students with significant cognitive and physical disabilities at Angus Valley Elementary in 2014, Ms. Schlehuber was approached by Representative Jadine Nollan. She was asked to speak before an Oklahoma House of Representatives subcommittee about participating in an interim study regarding high stakes testing for special education students. Ms. Schlehuber presented her concerns with the current system to the group. Students who had the cognitive functions of a two- to three-year-old were expected to take grade-level State tests. This opportunity to speak helped the House of Representatives adopt a bill that removed end-of-instruction testing for students with significant cognitive impairments.

Ms. Schlehuber has partnered with several organizations to offer recreational and therapeutic activities for her students. They have traveled weekly to attend therapeutic horseback riding, which has marvelous physical, emotional, and mental benefits. She also partnered with a local dance studio, The Legacy Project. Each week, she took her students to their studio for hip hop, jazz, and ballet classes. The benefits of this yearlong program culminated at the school talent show, when her students and their instructors performed for the entire school.

Ms. Schlehuber’s life passion revolves around providing recreational opportunities for students with disabilities, so they can live life to the fullest regardless of perceived limitations. For several years, she has taken dozens of Sand Springs students to Make Promises Happen (MPH), an outdoor adventure camp for individuals with special needs. This camp gives individuals the opportunity to “live life without limits” by providing a typical camp experience, including a high ropes course with a rock-climbing wall and zip line, archery, paddle boating, fishing, laser tag, paintball, etc. Every activity is adapted so every person can participate. In addition, she has directed adventure trips for these students, taking them surfing in Port Aransas, TX, and to the rainforest jungles of Costa Rica, where they stayed for a week in treehouses.

Ms. Schlehuber once asked a fourteen-year-old student, Cody, to attend the camp with her as a volunteer counselor. He has continued to attend faithfully for 11 years. His early years of service led him into a career working in nonprofits, and he ultimately secured a job at MPH. Last year, he was added to their staff and was named the Director of Marketing and Public Relations. Recently, he completed a campaign to raise $20,000 for camper scholarships and exceeded the fundraising goal.

Ms. Schlehuber has mentored countless Sand Springs students as volunteers at MPH and/or peer partners for Special Olympics. Among those who are now adults are special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses, missionaries, and doctors. Their opportunity to serve at MPH at a young age allowed them to see their gifts in working with the special needs population and to guide their career paths.

"Due to Carrie’s strong ideals and stance on inclusion, Charles Page has become a welcoming atmosphere for everyone," said Dylan Cahwee, assistant principal of Owasso High School West Campus. "It's truly a powerful thing when you see a leader impact so many students simply by being an example. By virtue of being a kind human, Carrie has left a trail that many students follow throughout their high school careers, as well as their adulthood.”

Last year, the CPHS Student Council started a school-wide philanthropy initiative called G.O.L.D. (Give Often. Love Deeply) Week. Because of MPH's school-wide popularity, the student council decided MPH would be the recipient of their fundraising efforts. The students had a fundraising goal of $5,000, which they surpassed by raising $16,000 for the camp. Ms. Schlehuber would never take any credit for the work put into this event, but she is the driving force behind the advocacy for special needs students at Sand Springs Public Schools.

In 2018, Ms. Schlehuber and her colleague, Angela Fitzgerald, wrote a grant which was funded by the Sand Springs Education Foundation. Special needs students in Angela’s work-study program set up a coffee cart named “The Morning Grind” that provides students and faculty with drinks on the go.

“The Morning Grind is an opportunity for students in Angela's work-study program to learn job skills such as taking orders, making change, customer service, dealing with an incorrect order or unhappy patron, and more," said Kirk McCracken, a reporter for the Sand Springs Leader.

The $1,500 grant allowed the students to purchase two mobile coffee carts, two Keurig coffee makers, breakfast snacks, and a large variety of coffees, teas, and cappuccinos. A former Sand Springs head wrestling coach donated a cash register so students could run the coffee cart business with very little adult assistance.

“The coffee cart is self-sustaining because all proceeds will be used to purchase more snacks and beverages," said Schlehuber. "The cart is currently running several mornings each week and also fulfills an order two afternoons each week for a little afternoon pick me up.”

Ms. Schlehuber currently has a student, Kristine (Kris), who is on her varsity cheer team. Kris has Down Syndrome, and she asked Ms. Schlehuber if she could try out for the cheer team. Kris now cheers at football and basketball games and attends and participates in all practices. Recently, Kris was featured on a local news station for her involvement on the team.

“It has been so delightful to watch her personality bloom as she has found her place among the cheer squad," said Schlehuber. "They are some of her best friends and biggest allies, and they have become huge cheerleaders for her success.”

“Carrie has an inclusive mentality," said Sandi Franklin, a colleague. "Every student, teacher, and parent is important to her. She will give every person who reaches out to her the same attention and care. Her care for others rubs off on all of us and makes our school a kinder place.”

Comments (35)

April Wegener Posted over a year ago

Carrie is such an amazing person! She cares so deeply for so many! She has a huge heart! She does so much for not only her community but kids in other communities. She is such a great example of what a person should be! She is such an amazing role model for so many and she has modeled this character for her family! She has raised amazing kids that have her same heart for loving and helping all people! I have so much respect and admiration for Carrie! She is truly one of the best people I know! She is definitely a life changer!

Laura McGehee Posted over a year ago

I have known Carrie for almost 40 years and one thing that has stayed the same about her is her tenacity, willingness to help others and fight for what she believes in. Carrie's career has spanned from being a speech pathologist at an early childhood center and school for special needs to an admin position at the high school, cheer coach and even camp director. She can do it all and will get it done and done correctly, both in sickness AND IN health! I admire her ability to push through adversities in her own life in order to fight for others that are born with adversities that they can not control, all while being a superior mama to 3 amazing children. She is definitely a true LIFE CHANGER.

Julie Ferguson Posted over a year ago

Carrie's loving-kindness mirrors that of the God she serves. Everyone who is blessed to know Carrie -- students and colleagues alike -- feel their true God-given worth and importance. She radiates joy, and it rubs off on those around her wherever she goes. My son who has autism had a much richer education because he was privileged to have her as a teacher and also IEP coordinator for a time. He felt included as much as any typical student, and it never ceased to amaze me how much he was treated as an almost-celebrity by his typical peers at the high school. Even now, when we run into his former classmates out in the community, they seek him out for a friendly hello and catch-up conversation. I truly believe that this has come about much because of their model, Carrie. Even though my son has graduated, he is still benefiting from her influence and work with Make Promises Happen camp. Every part of her life's work receives the same full effort and enthusiasm. She shines!

Mikael Howard Posted over a year ago

Carrie Schlehuber has the kindest heart, awesome personality, and a great advocate for students. When students need help figuring something out she will guide them through the process making students feel important and heard.

Andrea Posted over a year ago

Carrie is my hero.

Sally Daniel Posted over a year ago

Thank you Carrie for all you do for our students . God will bless you in everything you done for our students. Thank you for your support, your encouragement and always has time to listen. I feel very fortunate that I get to work with Carrie.

CATHY BURDGE Posted over a year ago

I have known Carrie as a student (classmate to my daughter), coach (to my granddaughter) and teacher. She is one amazing lady. The care and love she gives to every student or person she comes in contact with is unequaled. Carrie has changed so many lives and continues to do so. Even with the health issues Carrie has gone through, it has never slowed her. She moves at fast pace doing and caring for all she comes in contact with. The work Carrie does with Make Promises Happen is commendable. To think of Carrie Schlehuber is to know what "walks and talks in LOVE" is all about. Carrie Schlehuber equals LOVE!

Kristin Arnold Posted over a year ago

In the movie Oklahoma, there is a character, Ado Annie. Ado Annie sings the song, "I Can't Say No" and as Ms. Schlehuber's principal, I always teased her that she needed to learn to say, NO. I realize the song is about something else, but Carrie Schlehuber is everywhere and trying to meet the needs of everyone, which she does very well. Schle, as we call her is quick to volunteer and take on, even more, to help others despite what is already on her plate. Unfortunately, Carrie has had some very serious health issues to face but in the throws of life and death she continued to meet the needs of others (cheer sponsor, special education parents and students, colleagues, Make Promises Happen Special Education Camp, family, counseling needs, sports events, community events, etc...). She continues to grow as a teacher, colleague and leader, but always leads, learns and teaches with a service-oriented heart.

Kynsee Champ Posted over a year ago

Carrie Schlehuber has been like my second mom for 6 years, and has been a huge part of my life. I know I can always count on her on and off the mat. I will forever appreciate her kind heart and selflessness.

Kendra Roulet Posted over a year ago

This lady....she is truly amazing and has personally changed my life by helping me learn more about people with special needs and how I can help them! She has impacted so many of my former students (and my own children) by introducing them to Make Promises Happen - a camp where they can spend time with kids and adults with special needs! She has also raised awareness to PKD (a debilitating kidney disease) as she went through it and is on the road to wellness through a transplant! She is truly a life changer!!!

Jason Thomsen Posted over a year ago

I found out that Carrie had been nominated for the Life Changer of the Year award and felt compelled to write in to throw in my two cents, for what it’s worth. At the same time, it also reminded me that I never gave her a Christmas gift before leaving for the school’s winter break. I was roaming my local Tarjay electronics/music department when realizing my Scrooge-esk miscue. This prompted me to reach out to my friend. I knew she was a music fan but, in all this time of knowing her, I never seemed to pin down which artist or group she was most enamored with. My idea was simple! Find out which artist she liked the most, purchase their most recent album as a peace offering to give her for forgetting her gift, and then return to completing what I had set out to do in the first place which was voicing my opinion on why I believe Carrie Schlehuber is THE perfect person you will ever find deserving of this honor. So we exchanged some work-on-a-holiday emails at first and then I SLYLY added to my response “what music artist or group do you like the most?”. Of course I figured she was at a loss and confused by the question. Who to pick? Which era? What genre? The Beatles? Prince? Madonna? Surely it would take her hours to pour over all of the hall of fame like candidates. She wouldn’t be able to get back with me before I made my way to the checkout line. To my astonishment, she responded right away. No doubt she went with Zeppelin. Instead I received a dark and almost disturbing selection. The Indigo Girls…….Really??? The Indigo Girls????? I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say in return other than my knee-jerk “Gross! Nevermind!”. I couldn’t even imagine myself actually searching for their CD...that is if they were even elevated past cassettes. Needless to say, I couldn’t pull the trigger on the music purchase. She’ll probably have to settle for a cupcake and homemade punch which is certainly life altering compared to that audio torture. As I stated earlier, my initial goal was to write to you about my friend, Carrie Schlehuber. My message to you was going to be short, sweet, leaving you convinced that she was as close to the perfect friend and life changer as one could hope to find. This, of course, was until she revealed her conviction for The Indigo Girls. I suppose Carrie was bound to have a blemish but in the way of flaws, this was top tier. You’ll be hard pressed to find another one though. Give her the award!!

Patty Carey Posted over a year ago

I've known Carrie since my son who has down syndrome was in her class. She is the most positive and encouraging person I know. Her willingness to help in any situation always amazes me. She is a blessing to so many people. She is the kind of person I aspire to be.

Holly Chadwick Posted over a year ago

Carrie Schlehuber has such an amazing heart and has been instrumental in so many positive changes in the Sand Springs Schools special education department. As the parent of a student, a Sand Springs graduate, and having known Carrie since high school, I can honestly say she is most definitely a life changer. Not only has she changed the lives of her students in special education for the better, she has also shown the other students how they can help and how they can become life changers themselves.

Kristen Anderson Posted over a year ago

Sand Springs is the third school district I have worked at in my teaching career and I have never had this level of support by an administrator before. Carrie is so approachable and available to give advice and to listen -AND she does so while smiling! I have never caught her on a bad day! When I have a need or my students have a need, Carrie does her best to meet it! She does not put it off or tell me it can’t be done, she figures out a way to make it happen! We will be getting a new sensory table soon because Carrie came up with the funds for us to do so!! Supporting teachers and students with special needs is her passion and that is evident. She knows students by name and makes an effort to create connections. I have never worried about not having the support I need as a teacher because I have had Carrie as an administrator. Our community and school is better for knowing her.

Sarah Wright Posted over a year ago

I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Carrie. She wears many different hats and put her whole heart in each and every responsibility that comes her way. She is truly an inspiration and I’m very thankful to call her a friend. Congrats Carrie!

ashley hale Posted over a year ago

Carrie is one the kindest and truest people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She has taken me in and treated me as one of her own time and time again and always made me feel welcomed and loved around her. She and her family introduced me to Make Promises Happen camp almost 5 years ago. She brought me to a second home with a whole bunch of other people to love. She inspires her colleagues and friends to constantly be better, and kinder. She is the definition of a life changer in the way she exhibits her strength and grace in all of her daily actions and I am forever grateful to have her as apart of my life!

Teresa Morrow Posted over a year ago

We need more teachers luke Carrie. She has dedication and a love for her students that makes her a successful teacher.

Michelle Hale Posted over a year ago

Carrie, I don’t know if you’re truly aware of how grateful I am for your involvement with Ashley. By encouraging her to volunteer at MPH and supporting her, you gave her something to be all in for at a time she really needed something to feel good about. Thank you. You’re an inspiration to many, myself included, for your selfless giving to so many others. Not to mention all while you were suffering. You are the definition of a LIFE CHANGER!

Krystal Chase Posted over a year ago

I've known Carrie for 9 years, first meeting when I began subbing at Angus Valley. We were new to the district and making Sand Springs our home. I loved subbing with her in her classroom. The joy she brought and the inclusiveness she instilled in that room and school was inspiring. I knew I wanted to be just like her in my own life and classroom management. She always has a smile on her face and puts others before herself. She is now my leader on the cheer mat and I couldn't have asked for a better teacher. Coaching isn't something you do for the money, you do it to impact athletes in a positive way. Carrie is that coach that everyone wishes you could have in your corner. She goes above and beyond for everyone she meets. I'm blessed to have her in my life and Sand Springs is a better place with her in it.

Angela Fitzgerald Posted over a year ago

Carrie and I have been colleges and friends for more than 10 years. During this time I have seen her tirelessly fight for the rights of individuals with disabilities. She has spent countless hours of her free time working at MPH camp and Special Olympics. Her desire is to develop a culture of inclusion for all individuals. Carrie’s energy and passion are contagious. She is truly deserving of this honor.

Kassidy Focht Posted over a year ago

I coach at Sand Springs under Mrs.Schlehuber & I could not ask for a better leader, mentor, example, or friend. I watch Carrie with her students, her athletes and even her colleagues and there just aren’t enough words to describe her commitment and passion for helping others. She is selfless, caring and beyond generous with her time. Carrie has led by example for me since the day I met her and every day that I am able to work along side her, I aspire to be more like her. Carrie Schlehuber is the mentor every person would want for their child and is truly a life changer. She has changed mine forever, for the better.

Emma Carter Posted over a year ago

Carrie Schlehuber has made such a positive impact at Charles Page High School. She is such a strong and inspiring role model to all.

Raegan Foster Posted over a year ago

Biggest heart, kindest soul, strongest shoulder to lean on..Carrie Schlehuber has done nothing but support, love, give, and care for anybody she may see. She has not only watched me grow up, but through her words of encouragement, support, and advice she has greatly impacted the person I am becoming.

Abbie White Posted over a year ago

Carrie has been like a second mother to me and one of my biggest role models for the past 5 years. I will forever appreciate having someone as inspiring, selfless, and awesome supporting me in everything I do. I am so proud of you Carrie, I love you with everything in me.

emma brumbaugh Posted over a year ago

Carrie is definitely the best cheer coach and she is always willing to make a difference in the world. Carrie invited me to go serve at Make Promises Happen and almost 4 years later i’m completely in love with that camp and I try to go to very camp I can.

Sloan Goggin Posted over a year ago

From friends’ mom, to neighbor, to cheer coach, to mentor and friend, Carrie Schlehuber has watched me grow and helped me through the process. Whether it’s a word of advice, or just a shoulder to cry on, she’s been there for me through all phases of my life. She never fails to be inclusive and encouraging to anyone and everyone. You won’t find someone with a bigger heart for people of all kinds. When I think of Carrie, I know she’ll always have my back and support me in all my endeavors. Carrie loves like nobody else I’ve ever seen. Her kindness is contagious.

Olivia Gillespie Posted over a year ago

Carrie is the most kind hearted person I’ve ever met! She loves and cares for each and every person she knows. She takes care and loves all of her students, athletes, and campers, as her own family. She has always been there for everyone when they need her most. No matter what happens in her life, she always has a smile on her face and laughs and shines her way through every situation!

Taylor Spencer Posted over a year ago

Carrie Schlehuber has always been a huge part of my life. On the mat for cheer and off, I can always count on her support and decision making. She has impacted my life tremendously, always the person I can vent to, and rely on for advice. As my time at Charles Page slowly comes to an end, I will remember to be kind like Carrie, love like her and cherish every moment with everyone. She has taught me to love every individual and always be kind.

Paige Caughman Posted over a year ago

By far the best coach I had and she no doubt had the biggest impact on my high school experience in cheer. She’s always so motivating and pushes you to do what you assume you can’t and I’ll always be grateful for what she’s done for me!

Chloe Hunt Posted over a year ago

Carrie Schlehuber was the best cheer coach I ever had, she impacted me in so many amazing ways. Not only was she an amazing coach she is an amazing role model to look up too and I’ll always love her like she’s my mom!! she deserves this more then anyone in the whole world!!! I love her so much ??

Michele Smith Posted over a year ago

Carrie is one of the most giving, loving, supportive, and kind people I have Been blessed to know. She knows no stranger, always has a smile on her no matter what she may be faced with personally, and will do anything for anyone. Carrie is a true blessing to anyone who knows her. Carrie is leaving a huge compassionate mark on this world with everything she does. She is loved, trusted, and adored by many. I can't think of a better person for this. She changes lives every single day and it's just a blessing to see it in person. Congratulations on being nominated Carrie.

Candace smith Posted over a year ago

Carrie is the bomb. She cares and brings her entire family to support her cause. They don’t get better than this. I support her 100% and strive to be as kind and supportive as she is. I’ve seen her make a difference in many lives. She doesn’t see color, handicap or class. She is the real thing. She has my love, admiration and support.

Cody Lawson Posted over a year ago

So thankful for your influence on my life. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have gone to camp, I probably wouldn’t have ended up moving to Edmond and working for non-profits now working for camp! Because of you pushing me to volunteer at camp it grew my love for serving others and my passion for being an advocate for those that can’t advocate for themselves. Thank you!

Abbi Ruicker Posted over a year ago

So blessed to have Carrie Schle in my life as a friend, and even more blessed to have her be one of the amazing teachers in my sister’s life. My life is better having known Carrie!

Sally Daniel Posted over a year ago

Thank you for everything! You are the best. Thank you for support and willingness to help others.