By Lindsey Bell
When my oldest child started school, I was nervous. Would he make friends? What if someone broke his heart or didn’t include him?
I was accustomed to spending nearly every moment with him, so this was an adjustment for both of us. Like many moms and dads, I worried about sending my child to school.
But on that first day of kindergarten, when I walked into our elementary school, something caught my eye. It was a dry-erase board that read, “175 days to make a difference.” The sign was placed where teachers would see it often. Each day, as I walked my kindergartener into the building, the number went down. “174 days to make a difference. . . . 173 . . . 172.”
I knew then my son was in a good place. There were people who cared about him there. People who weren’t just clocking in and clocking out but who instead viewed their work as it really was—an opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of children.
Dr. Dustin Storm was one of those people. He was the principal at that time. He’s currently Superintendent of Schools for Miller, Missouri. When I asked Dr. Storm why he used the signs, he told me he wanted to remind his teachers to “make each day count.” It’s easy to get caught in a rut, especially toward the end of the year or with a particularly difficult student. Dr. Storm wanted to encourage his teachers to remember that each day is precious. Each day is an opportunity to spread hope.
Dr. Storm chose a career in public education because he wanted to make a difference. He started down this path in high school. He was part of a program that sent students into elementary schools to encourage kids to avoid alcohol and drugs and to make good choices. He knew that he was doing important work, but he didn’t realize how much of a difference he was making until a fourth grader wrote a book and presented it to him. The student told Dustin that he had changed his life.
From then on, Dustin realized there is “a great ministry in public education.” Dr. Storm began his “ministry” as a coach and teacher. He moved to administration in 2001. Through the years he has had many opportunities to live out his faith in the workplace.
One way he does this is by leading his team well. He uses his 45-minute commute for prayer and reflection. “I cannot lead people without the Lord’s guidance,” he told me. He also reads his Bible first thing in the morning, as soon as he arrives at his office.
“Praying and reading my Bible might seem like small things,” he told me. “But they get my mind set straight for the day.”
Another way he is able to live out his faith in his position is through a partnership with his church. His church takes up a weekly offering that goes directly to help the needs of people in the community. If a child needs shoes or someone can’t make a car payment or a couple can’t pay a medical bill, they are helped through this fund.
Because of Dr. Storm’s job, he is often aware of needs that arise in the community and is able to meet these needs through his church’s generosity. Many times he has been able to deliver the gifts personally. “I’ve been blessed to have connections,” he told me. “I just get to be the deliverer.”
His job, though, isn’t without its challenges. When he was relatively new at a school he noticed a student who had clearly been abused. After calling family services, he walked out of his office and was then immediately greeted by a new issue that needed his attention. “It can be hard to shift gears,” he explained. “And it’s devastating when you realize the heartbreaking backgrounds some of these kids come from.
“The only chance some of these kids have is us,” he told me. That’s why Dr. Storm is doing all he can to give these kids hope.
“It’s the hope we have for their futures,” he said. “It’s all about the kids . . . what’s best for the kids.”
Lindsey Bell is an author and speaker living in Southwest Missouri with her husband, Keith, and their two children (lindseymbell.com).
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