For Women in the Second Half of Life
Judy Kennedy Schroeder has yet to find her second wind because she continues to live in her first. Judy was born and raised in Taylor, Texas, and has seen her hometown change and grow over the years. Taylor used to be the largest town in Williamson County, but today it is the smallest of the top six cities. Her father Bill was a sports writer for the Taylor Press and also wrote for publications like Field & Stream magazine. Her Ruth mother worked in a local bank. Judy also has younger siblings: a brother and a sister.
In high school, Judy enjoyed playing basketball and playing in the band, and she was also a member of the “Green Jackets,” which are known today as the Hi-Steppers. It was during her senior year that the Taylor schools were integrated. Her parents were huge influences on her life, especially when it came to treating everyone with respect and serving others.
Judy felt like her upbringing was like something out of Mayberry RFD, and as I visited with her, she kept referring to her life as boring. But as you will see, it’s far from it.
From the time she was a little girl, Judy wanted to be a teacher, and she made that dream come true after graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in education. In fact, she completed a five-year program in three and a half years. In 1969 at age 21, she began teaching special education students and eventually switched to reading and then English/Language Arts, which she has taught the longest. This extraordinary woman just marked her 50th year in teaching, and she’s still going strong well after the time most teachers retire. She doesn’t have to teach, but she absolutely loves it. She is now teaching students whose grandparents she also taught. Amazing.
Judy’s greatest inspiration for teaching was her sophomore English teacher, Naomi Pasemann, who taught 44 years in Taylor ISD, and she’s definitely followed Mrs. Pasemann’s footsteps in that regard. Each year Judy has taught between 75-150 students, so multiply that by fifty, and you can see she has impacted thousands of students over her five decades of teaching.
As for challenges in her earlier years of teaching, she didn’t really focus on those, although I recognized some immediately. I cannot imagine teaching English/Language Arts to 150 students, especially having to grade essays and writing assignments. She said teachers used to compute all of their students’ grades individually on calculators, too, and make copies on the old mimeograph machines with the blue or purple ink that often ended up on one’s fingers. Teachers were happy to have that technology back then, but oh, have times changed. Today, Judy continues to keep up with new technology, and loves the many resources available to teachers from the Internet. Teaching enables her to keep learning, too.
Judy teaches at St. Mary’s Catholic School, and I asked her how the pandemic has changed her teaching situation. She’s actually doing face-to-face and virtual teaching at the same time during class, keeping the virtual students on Zoom just as engaged as the rest of the class. Students learning from home have to be in uniform and sitting in front of their computers at 7:55 a.m. just like the in-class learners. Judy asks them questions and they answer just like they are present. She praised the school’s hard-working tech specialist who’s putting in lots of overtime to make this new teaching reality work.
Teaching takes up the vast majority of her time, but Judy also enjoys gardening and decorating her home. Everything in her house has a meaning or story behind it, and it is arranged so beautifully. Second Wind is going to do a separate story on that when Judy has more time to share the history behind her well-curated collection.
Judy has two sons, Mark and Josh, who live in Taylor and Georgetown, respectively, two daughters-in-law Ashley and Kari, and seven grandchildren who love hanging out with Grammy. Judy is very close to her family and sees them regularly. On any given weekend, she stays busy attending the grands’ sporting events and other activities, and one or more grandchildren are usually spending the night.
Judy began traveling around 2003 with her first international trip along with Josh and Ashley visiting London, France, and Belgium. They also surprised her with a two-night tour to Scotland by herself, and that was before cell phones. She said her tour group experienced blizzard conditions at Loch Ness, but the trip was unforgettable. She’s since traveled to other countries, including her most recent trips to India, a mission trip, and China. As for her most impactful experience, she answered without hesitation, “Rwanda." This is the country that went through the genocide of an estimated 800,000 Tutsi people by the Hutus. She visited a church where many people were killed inside, and they left the bloodstains and torn clothing as a memorial to the victims.
Judy said traveling changes one’s perspective about life and makes us realize how much we take for granted in America. In some of the poorest places in the world, she passed by children without any clothes on because their only set of clothes was hanging to dry nearby. And yet, she said those were some of the happiest people she’d ever been around. The pandemic canceled her latest planned trip to Peru with the youth from her church.
Judy’s faith is paramount in her life. She became a Christian through Campus Crusade for Christ while attending UT Austin. Judy also believes she is called to teach the Bible, and many have benefited under her Bible teaching. She headed up Community Bible Study while working full-time, and has also worked with the youth in her church for 35 years. She enjoyed mentoring young moms for the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) organization, too. And she still loves working with kids and mentoring girls and women of all ages.
Judy’s favorite scripture is I Peter 1:6-7, which surprises some because the verses talk about going through various trials, but she knows those trials refine her faith. Another favorite scripture she lives by is Proverbs 3:5-6 that says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” But the quote she reaches for most to put things, especially difficult things in perspective is, “What does it matter in the light of eternity?”
Thank you, Judy, for investing so much of your time and efforts in people, and especially young people, our most precious commodity. Thank you for your many years of teaching in school and at church, as well as mentoring women through the perspective of God’s Word. The world needs more like you, my friend.
Donna Van Cleve
Photos provided by Judy
Judy Kennedy (oldest) with her father Bill, brother Tim, & sister Becky
Left: Newspaper clipping of Judy after being chosen Taylor High School basketball queen in 1966;
Below: Judy with her mother, Ruth Kennedy
Judy with her sons Mark and Josh Schroeder
Judy with her pride and joy -- her seven grands she sees regularly
Judy Kennedy Schroeder
Judy with Maasai women in Africa
Judy & friends taking the high road on one of her trips
Rwandan women support themselves by making & selling baskets.
One of these beautiful bowls sits on Judy's coffee table now.
The "Sistas"- Judy, her sis-in-law Becky Kennedy, & sister Becky Weatherly