Brenda Ader believes the most intense compliment a teacher can receive is, “I’m alive because of you.”
I wish that you could have that moment in your life where you realize that somebody’s life was changed for the better because of you.
“Those are the most powerful words somebody can ever say to you,” she explains. “You were the right word at the right time.” Brenda has been the “right word at the right time” for students at Momence since August 2001. Her origin story from payroll processor at TTC Illinois to Biology/English mecha-education hybrid is filled with Hitchlock-level entanglements with corporate greed, made-for-TV job interviews, and a blend of a love for what is both wonderful and necessary. Since she teaches a mythology class known well in the deep lore of MHS’s hallways, it’s only right that we read into the runes of her myth (which happens to be true).
By Nate Fisher
August of 2001. “We processed payrolls,” she says, discussing her role at TTC Illinois, a former Kankakee professional employer organization. “Then in early August of 2001, our Boca Raton office suddenly shut down. And then there were rumors…” she recalls. More offices headed to the meat grinder. Come to find out, the CEO of Brenda’s employer was involved in a 100 million dollar workman’s compensation fraud scam. Opportunists in TTC’s accounting department were found out as accomplices, and the remaining offices were dissolved. Brenda was abruptly laid off before the end of August as TTC shuttered its doors.
With two weeks’ severance in her pocket, Brenda immediately sought new employment. She was determined to put the teaching certificate she earned in 1996 to the test. The options she discussed with the unemployment office yielded no fruit. She religiously scanned job postings in local newspapers. Her hunt paid off. Two postings appeared before the end of the month: one for a special education teacher at Momence and another position at St. Anne High. Hedging her bets, she applied for both.
“That was the easiest job interview I’ve ever been on in my life,” Brenda says of applying for the job at MHS. Her version of events is akin to “I was told to answer the questions in a semi-intelligent manner and they’d offer me the job.” Needless to say, she aced it and has been here ever since. Brenda credits working alongside a team of professionals in special education for easing her into the role. “They really walked me through the process,” she says, “really mentored me, really taught me a lot of things.”
Now Brenda roots for the underdog, hosts an exchange student and tries to expand the community’s international ties, and ultimately does her best to convey the importance of communication and appreciation for the humanities to her students. Not unlike the aims of the Greek gods she discusses during class, these are epic moves from someone who is quite mythic herself in stature of character.
Her rewards are humble but mountain-moving in their intention. Brenda tells us a story of a run-in with a former student, the sudden hug and words they exchanged: “I’m alive because of you.” For so many students, she’s been the waystation in the valleys of the darkest places and shepherded them back to the light. “It’s such a blessing,” she revels. “I would wish that blessing on everybody, that you could have that moment in your life where you realize that somebody’s life was changed for the better because of you.”