Early on in her career as a physical education teacher, Kelsey Stenger realized the full scope of her role.

“I realized my job wasn’t just to be a teacher,” she says. “It was to be more of a mentor who can talk to girls about self-worth, confidence and help them with that.”

The 2012 graduate says she supplements her physical fitness lessons at Carthage High School by talking about the importance of mental and emotional health.

“I work them pretty hard, but we’ll take a day off every now and then to do something to enhance one of those other modes of wellness,” says Stenger. “One day we did manicures, pedicures and facials. It sounds silly to talk about the importance of good hygiene to high-school students, but there are a lot of kids who are lacking a mentor or mother figure in their life.”

She’s also a firm believer in the importance of service to others, which she has implemented as advisor for the school’s student council.

“We started a new program that has been really good so far,” she says. “It’s called Passion Projects. The kids get into groups and create their own community service project from scratch, and it’s their job to see it through to the end.

“We had some really good things come from it. We had a Polar Express community Christmas event, and kids who made baskets to deliver to homeless people. It was really cool to see. I didn’t have a hand in it. It was all them.”

Stenger says she’s always been a proponent of service to others.

“We live in a selfish world, and service is a really great character trait,” she says. “It’s something I want to build in my students. It’s a contagious feeling.

“While I’m here, I hope I can spread it to as many of my students as I can, and that they’ll continue to serve others and live positive lives.”