“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go. . .”
Mrs. Judy Commers, marketing instructor at the Porter County Career and Technical Center (PCCTC), sends off her students each June with these words and more from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go. She loves this book, the last published by Theodor Geisel before his death, and the messages that is conveys.
The veteran educator will give her last send-off to students this month and step into retirement.
Commers, a native of Hartford City, IN, has been encouraging and influencing students—and her fellow educators--for 40 years as a teacher, DECA advisor and mentor. After graduating from Ball State University in three years, a youthful Judy Jones started her teaching career at Snider High School in Fort Wayne. After three years there, she spent three years at Harrison High School in West Lafayette and one year at Chesterton High School before landing at Valparaiso High School and, ultimately, the Porter County Career and Technical Center for a total of 33 years. She has focused on marketing education and entrepreneurship.
Colleagues and students alike are positive about the impact that Commers has had.
“Judy has touched the future through hundreds of graduates who will always call her their favorite teacher,” said Jon Groth, director and principal at Porter County Career and Technical Education. “Her students always left her program better than when they started, and that is a testimony to professional and compassionate instruction.”
Kent Lewis, marketing teacher at Munster High School, noted, “Any and all of my success as a teacher and advisor is because of Judy Commers. She was always willing to give so much of herself to help me and others like me.”
Former student Mitchell Stevenson, a Purdue University student in business management, said, "Mrs. Commers was a role model and great mentor to me. She trusted me to develop my leadership potential within the classroom and allowed me to participate in amazing conferences through DECA and internship work experiences.”
“Mrs. Commers was the most influential teacher I had in high school,” said Jennifer Gaulin, business teacher at Boone Grove High School. “I didn't know it at the time, but what she taught put me far above the others even into my second year at college.”
Judy raised two daughters, Christen and Courtney, with her husband Rick, a teacher himself for 37 years and a long-time coach. Christen serves as an attorney in Union City, IN, while Courtney is a fourth grade teacher at Brummitt Elementary School in Chesterton.
Some proudest moment for Judy include graduating from college, authoring textbooks and seeing young people succeed. She is a strong advocate for career and technical education and all the experience that it offers to high school juniors and seniors. She was honored in 2014 for 40 years of services to DECA.
To fellow teachers coming up through the ranks, Judy encourages: be passionate about what you do and love kids—or find another path. You must be a life-long learner, she noted.
As for the future, a few things on Judy’s plate will be reading, teaching part-time at Ivy Tech Community College and taking culinary and technology classes herself.
“Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed. (98-3/4% guaranteed).”
“Thank you, Judy, for your energy and passion to have helped so many students and colleagues over the years,” added Debbie Heitmann, PCCTC counselor and colleague.