Stefanie Roberts sat in her eighth-grade math class at Sherman Middle School in Holly on September 11, 2001, two weeks into a new school year, when a moment in time changed the course of her life and the history books for her students.
After terroists attacked the United States, Roberts picked up the telephone. She didn't call friends. She didn't call family. She called all branches of the United States military to find out how she could help.
The United States Army returned Roberts’s call and the Army Reserves swore her in just a month later and shipped her out for training in November.
“I came from a military family but I never wanted to do it. When 9/11 happened, I knew I was going to defend our country and that I would have the full support of my family,” she said.
As people are remembering those who served around the country, there is one special soldier in Fenton who has touched many hearts. Roberts has served four tours of duty for her country and has also taught many students what Memorial Day really means.
In the army now
Roberts serves as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) Commander for the 785th Military Police Battalion, located in Fraser. She has served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. She served her first tour of duty in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“My recruiter came to my house at 5 a.m. the day I had to leave for training. I hugged my mom and bawled my eyes out,” she said. “The most difficult part of my duty was leaving my family, but the easiest part was knowing the purpose.”
Peggy Roberts said her daughter has always been a very independent young lady.
“Proud cannot even begin to describe how I feel about her," she said. "She is thoughtful beyond belief, loving, kind and has a wonderful sense of humor.”
Roberts said the Army side of her daughter shows how strong she is.
“She has the ability to look at a problem from all directions and decide the correct course to take,” she said. “She is fair and knows how to motivate and get the job done.”
Roberts initially learned individualized specialized training and military intelligence. She had a leadership role from day one.
“I was 31 years old and the kids with me were mostly 18-20 year olds, therefore, I was put in charge," she said.
She became company commander during her fourth deployment and was in charge of 140 people.
"Managing people who are 9 and 10 years old or adults is pretty much the same," she said.
Roberts returned from her fourth tour of duty in March of 2012.
In the classroom
Her school assignments changed throghout years of military service. Roberts previously taught eigth-grade math and coached girls basketball at Sherman Middle School in Holly. Later she worked at Middle School in Fenton. She eventually moved to Fenton's to teach fourth grade.
After returning from duty, she had three days to get ready for school.
State Road Elementary principal Barry Tiemann said Roberts was on military leave when he started his first year. He officially met her when she returned from active duty.
“Ms. Roberts is so well respected by everyone at State Road,” Tiemann said. “She has a great sense of humor and a great deal of common sense when dealing with all situations. She’s an outstanding person and a true leader.”
Tiemann said that Roberts’s inspiration to her students comes from her passion and work ethic.
“She is a strong teacher with high expectations for her students, yet her students also know that she cares deeply for each of them and that sense of caring is why they work so hard for her.”
Fourth-grader Amber Lynn Kelly describes Roberts as "very kind and great." She said she loves to play the states game race in Roberts' class. Students have to name the 50 states on a map as fast as they can.
“We race Ms. Roberts for the fastest time and she might give us extra recess time if we win," Amber said.
However, there is a twist to this game -if Roberts can solve a Rubik’s Cube faster than the students name the states, then she wins the game.
Amber said she knows that Roberts has served in the military. “This makes me feel good; she’s a hero.”
Classmate Jacob Voelker also enjoys the states race game and says that Ms. Roberts is real good at solving a rubik’s cube.
“Ms. Roberts is a great teacher and she is funny,” he said. “I know she was in the Army and I think it’s cool.”
The Girl Scouts from State Road Elementary ran a cookie drive for Roberts’s unit during her most recent tour. They sent almost hundred boxes that were bought by the people in the community.
Tiemann stated, “All of us are inspired by Ms. Roberts because of her commitment to her country while serving in the Army Reserves as well as her commitment to her students, families, and staff at State Road.”
Caryn Kelly is a substitute teacher for Fenton Schools who has known Roberts for five years.
“My daughter Amber currently has Ms. Roberts as her fourth grade teacher,” she said. “I have been so impressed with her selflessness and dedication to serving others. Her love of life and learning is such an inspiration to all of us at State Road Elementary.
“She is the kind of teacher I strive to be -she is patient, upbeat and has an excellent rapport with her students, parents and staff members,” she said. “She is fully committed to making sure her students succeed.”
Kelly adds that Roberts’s answered the call to serve in the Army during wars and her bravery and contributions to our country are admirable.
Most people will always remember where they were and what they were doing September 11, 2001. On this day, Roberts chose to leave the life she knew in order to preserve freedom and libertry for others. She chose to leave the life she knew to help her students have a brighter future.
The best thing people can do to show their support and appreciation is just a simple thank you.
“I was shopping in the Fenton Walmart after a Battle Assembly, so I had my
uniform on," she said. "A kid, no more than 12 years old, walked right up to me and said ‘Thank you for what you’re doing.’ It brings tears to my eyes."