A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Barb Spitler

Barb-SpitlerBorn and raised in the Valparaiso area, Barb Spitler has always been devoted to the community that she grew up in.

"I am proud to be from Valparaiso, and to be involved in the community," Spitler said. "My parents, Mann Jr and Imo, were very active in the community and I am very proud of both of them. They were fantastic people and wonderful role models for me."

Spitler is a special education teacher for Porter County Education Services, currently teaching at Washington Township Middle/High School. She has worked for the Porter County Education Services for eighteen years, having previously taught in Duneland and Portage schools before moving on to Washington Township schools. Spitler taught in the Gary Community School System for three years as well before moving on to teach in Porter County. Prior to teaching, however, Spitler served as a banker for ten years. Having majored in elementary education in college, Spitler decided to return to school to gain her Master's degree in Special Education.

"The best time was when I talked a student of mine at Portage High School out of dropping out of school," Spitler said. "He came to me a month before graduation, wanting to give up and drop out. I talked him into hanging in there and seeing it through. He ended up graduating and returned to the school the following year to tell me all about his wonderful experiences in Culinary School. That was the most gratifying thing to me as a teacher. He also thanked me for keeping him in school. That is what being a teacher is all about. I love watching all of my students graduate each year."

In her spare time, Spitler enjoys volunteering her time with many different organizations in her community. She has volunteered as a Kiwanis member, for the Special Olympics, with Valparaiso University, with the United Way, and with Opportunity Enterprises. Currently, she volunteers as a Certified Running Coach for the RRCA, at the Extra Mile Fitness Company, and is on the Opportunity Enterprises Marathon team. This will be her fifteenth year on the Opportunity Enterprises Marathon Team.

At Extra Mile, Spitler coaches runners, both new and experienced, for various races that they sign up for in the community. Meeting one night per week and one morning per weekend, they run together to train. With Opportunity Enterprises, she fundraises for them and trains to run the Chicago Marathon on their team. Even on the rare occasion where she misses a Chicago Marathon due to injury, she still does everything she can to help raise money for them.

"The best experience as a coach is to see people finish a race," Spitler said. "These are people who kept saying they could never finish a race, or even run. As an O.E. Marathon Team Member, my best experience was crossing the Chicago Marathon finish line for the very first time. I've been there, thinking there was no way I would ever be able to finish a race, so I know exactly how they feel going into training, and I know exactly how they feel once they cross that finish line – wonderful."

In what remains of her spare time, Spitler loves coaching, running marathons, participating in triathlons, travelling, and spending time with friends and family.