Brittany and Troy Sidders have long felt the call to educate children. As a young girl in Edgar, Neb., Brittany dreamed about being a teacher like her mother and grandfather. Troy always liked kids growing up in Kenesaw, Neb., and in college he realized his gift was teaching others.
They met studying teaching at Doane College and coincidentally landed jobs at Skyline Elementary Elkhorn after graduation. Troy taught fourth grade; she taught first. A deeper friendship was born when Troy recruited Brittany to be his co-sponsor for the fourth and fifth grade student council. They both took the same approach to their role: Empower kids to take ownership of their own projects, and stay out of the way once they do.
The kids flourished. They hosted fundraisers for Toys for Tots and Siena/Francis House. They called local organizations to schedule guest speakers. They organized a volleyball tournament to raise money for mosquito nets for Africa.
“We can’t take any credit for that, other than we let them do what they wanted,” Troy said. “Sometimes people limit kids because of their age, but they just want to matter and be important. If you trust them to do the right thing, than kids will want to do the right thing.”
The student council friendship grew a romance, and the two were married in 2008. Troy transitioned to being a principal at Westridge Elementary, while Brittany continued to spark that “aha” moment among her first graders. Outside the schoolhouse, they dedicate the daylight hours to two young daughters. After bedtime, they continue their constant quest toward being better teachers and educators, often late into the night.
Their drive to empower kids to reach their potential binds them together. “She has passion,” Troy said of his wife. “She knows what kids need and when they need it. She’s a learner, constantly looking for new ideas to incorporate with her own. She’s one of the hardest workers I know.”
In turn, Brittany taps into Troy’s experiences as a principal for ideas and inspiration. “He can give me insight and perspective based on what he’s seen,” she said.
Both Sidders take inspiration from the children they teach and the teachers around them. For Brittany, the personal reward is in a child’s expression when he finally grasps a difficult concept. “No one in first grade will necessarily say ‘thank you,’ but they say it with their hugs, high-fives and sadness at the end of the year,” she said.
“Even though 6-year-olds won’t tell you thank you, you know that you’re giving them something that can last forever.”