Nancy’s Story: Always Educating

Growing up in a family of seven children with a sister with a developmental disability, Nancy Stiefel always did what she could to protect and help her sister Sara.

Sara started receiving support from the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities when she was in preschool. As Sara grew up, Nancy would occasionally spend time in the classroom with her and at Special Olympics. Nancy grew up with an understanding of how much people with developmental disabilities have to give back.

“I learned a lot from my sister in those early years,” says Nancy.

Seeing Sara’s positive interactions with her teachers at school shaped Nancy’s career goals. She received her undergraduate degree in special education and general education and began teaching children with developmental disabilities shortly after.

Nancy loved teaching, but knew she wanted to be a special education director so she could have even greater impact on the developmental disabilities community. When her dream job opened up in the Sidney City Schools, Nancy knew it was the right place to be and she stayed there as director of special education for 13 years.

“I knew the impact I could have was tremendous,” says Nancy. “I got to work with some of the greatest teachers.”

When Sara graduated high school and started working in a workshop, Nancy knew it was time to have a conversation with her parents about plans for Sara when they could no longer take care of her. With the support of her siblings, Nancy let her parents know that she would be unable to care for Sara alone when the time came. And while this was a difficult conversation, she strongly believes it is one every family needs to have. Through her years in the developmental disabilities field, Nancy has worked with families in her community to help parents plan ahead for their children.

After working in Sidney, Nancy took a position with the Shelby County Board as the Director of Early Intervention. With this job, she is responsible for Wilma Valentine Childcare, a fully integrated childcare facility.

Looking back at her career and her time with her sister Sara, Nancy is proud of the positive changes in the community.

“There’s a greater awareness and understanding that people with developmental disabilities are more like us than unlike us,” Nancy says. “We celebrate what people can do.”