This is the first installment of a new series featuring unsung heroes. Please take the opportunity to use this survey to nominate someone in the McNicholas community who you consider an ‘unsung hero’. This can be any student, teacher, staff member, alumni or even a family member who is worthy of being recognized for deeds that positively impact those around them. We will use your responses to aide us in shining lights on unsung heroes through articles such as this, which will continue to be published periodically.
Mary Beth Sandmann graduated as a student of McNicholas in 1979 and returned to her alma mater in 1994 where she has taught theology ever since. Not only does she teach religion to students in the classroom, but also serves as the Art Club Moderator, a Retreat Director on the Kairos Board, and is a member of the Campus Ministry Team and Mardi Gras Committee.
Inhabiting the classroom next door to her, fellow theology teacher Teresa Davis has formed an inseparable bond with this unsung heroine. Davis said in her survey response, “Mary Beth Sandmann bleeds green. She has never been Teacher of the Year – she should be Person of the World… She also is a ‘mothers-mother.’ She is loyal, loving and caring to a large family and that is besides her gigantic McNick family… She loves Jesus, and lives out His ministry through teaching and campus ministry. Can you imagine after the school year is over — teaching and guiding 5 faith development retreats?… MBS works tirelessly for the students to help them develop their faith. She works long hours and weekends behind the scenes that others do not see. She asks for nothing, does not want praise, affirmation… but seeks to see signs of growth in students and how she can do retreats one step better… She barely gets a month off and then starts the process all over again in August. She deserves a massage chair, pedicure and 48 hours of undisturbed sleep, plus any award you are thinking of.”
John Norman has been a colleague of Sandmann for more than two decades. Speaking warmly of his coworker, he said, “She works for the good of others. The students love Mrs. Sandmann and her kind and gentle manner. The love of Christ shining through her warm smile, her compassion, her service and her faith — Mary Beth Sandmann works tirelessly so that MHS’s students can have a wonderful experience at Kairos. She is the one who does much of the work before students arrive at the retreat center. She also is one of the many adults who labors so that the Mardi Gras evening is beyond wonderful. Have you noticed the artwork for the Mardi Gras stage? It is always beautiful and Mrs. Sandmann plays a key role in that awesome stage.”
Fellow theology teacher Sam Roflow corroborated the sentiments of Davis and Norman when he said, “Mary Beth is a kind and gentle soul who puts others ahead of her own wants and even needs at times.”
To many, Sandmann is an example of quiet determination and devotion. Anne Jones speaks to this as someone who has spent hours working alongside the woman she affectionately refers to as ‘MB.’ “MB is a role model for me as a teacher, a mother, and a follower of Christ. As humble and peaceful as MB is, she is equal shares of strength and conviction. When I see MB in the hall, I am always reminded to walk a little slower, breathe a little deeper, and take the time to show others that I care about them,” Jones said.
Andy Ey echoes Jones’ feeling of Sandmann being a comforting figure who keeps a positive outlook on life. Ey said, “MB, as she has been nicknamed, impacts my life by her ability to ALWAYS keep life in perspective. It’s so easy to get worn down by negativity or obstacles in life, but she shows up, puts on a smile and always has a good word to speak. That example tells me that I can do it too.”
As Davis and Norman detailed, Sandmann applies much of her time and energy towards providing worthwhile retreat experiences for students. Jones said, “My favorite memories with MB are probably from the many retreats we have participated in together, in particular the girls’ junior retreat where we have shared kettle corn, pumpernickel bagels, and enough laughter to fill my heart for weeks. I will also always treasure get-togethers at her camp along the river, 5th day gatherings after Kairos, and our Segway tour around downtown Cincinnati. I admire MB for kicking cancer’s butt, loving her children unconditionally, and always finding a way to do more with less. She is one amazing woman, and I am so grateful to get to call her my friend!”
English and French teacher Julie Dill also shared fond memories she has made with Sandmann over the years. Dill said, “Mrs. Sandmann has been one of my best friends at McNick. She has helped me through some difficult times and she has helped me laugh at so many funny moments we have shared together professionally and personally. I have had so many great experiences with Mrs. Sandmann. We have worked together to plan retreats and social outings, to pray and talk, to support each other. I have so many memorable moments are with her sense of adventure: her joy in traveling to Paris and London last summer, zooming on a Segway, and driving a boat!”
Science teacher John Chadwell expressed high praise and sincere gratitude for his former teacher turned colleague. “Mrs. Sandmann cares for me like I was one of her own children. She is, without exaggeration, the kindest soul I have ever met. She has been there to support me during the most difficult times of my career at McNick, and I cannot thank her enough for that. Our school is lucky to have her.”
According to the Gospel of Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus made his teachings very clear when asked what the greatest commandment is. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The witness of Sandmann’s colleagues show that she is truly the personification of this commandment and is more than deserving of being the first featured “Unsung Heroine” of McNicholas High School.
As Angie Noble lovingly said, “If you want to get to heaven, you don’t tell Mary Beth Sandmann no. She and God are tight.”