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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Aide Sparks Strength through Struggle

Some people may think of a soldier or a firefighter when they hear the words “hero” and “warrior,” but for the staff at Elizabeth Smith Elementary, these words describe their teammate Zondra Stepney.

Stepney has inspired her coworkers at Elizabeth Smith Elementary through the courage she displayed throughout her battle with breast cancer last year. Despite challenging circumstances, she continued to uplift others. Her uplifting spirit and efforts were evident in the Heartbeat Team nominations she received from campus staff.

“She is an inspiration to everyone on the team,” said Ira Okogbodu. “She is always smiling with a good word for everybody, even when she is in pain.”

Stepney’s attitude has made a positive impact on her coworkers, but she finds her own inspiration in the students she works with each day.

“I didn’t want to let breast cancer get me down,” said Stepney. “It was encouraging to come work with these kids because they have disabilities that they have to live with as well.”

In addition to her job as a Special Ed Aide, Stepney is a devoted wife and mother of four. Throughout her illness, she continued to put others first, scheduling all of her doctor’s appointments in the evening so that she did not have to miss a day of work.

“I think there were more days last year that she felt horrible and probably should not have been here, but she fought through it,” said Principal Lea Boiles. “It never showed that she didn’t have the physical endurance to be here.”

The Smith Elementary team offered an outpouring of love and support last March, before Stepney’s surgery. The staff and students planned a surprise pep rally featuring dance tributes, cheers and special care packages for Stepney and her family.

The pep rally in Stepney's honor was titled “Stomping Out Cancer,” which is exactly what she did - with a beautiful smile on her face.

Congratulations to our courageous October 2011 Heartbeat Team Award winner, Zondra Stepney!

About the Heartbeat Team
The Mansfield ISD Heartbeat Team was established to recognize employees who display heart in their lives and inspire other district employees through their actions. Heartbeat Team members are nominated only by other district employees. Winners are selected during the school year from those nominated. Those named to the Heartbeat Team are still eligible for other district honors.