This Tuesday’s #teamhighlight features, Sheila Mraz, Rainbow Community School’s passionate, loving, and incredibly enthusiastic Admissions Director. Long before she arrived at Rainbow, Sheila was a committed student to the art of education. After growing up in Ohio and graduating from the University of Dayton, she took the bold step of moving to North Carolina on her own. She taught everywhere, from an inner city school in Charlotte, to a Hendersonville public school, to a local prep school. Her experiences, while fulfilling, left her questioning what her true purpose was exactly. Within each of the three very different environments in which she taught, she found restriction after restriction. She felt limited as a teacher and asked herself what effect she was truly having on her students. Not only that, she began seeking something more for children everywhere.
It was at this time that she brought two of her own children into the world and the issue became more pressing than ever. Sheila says, “I loved this child like nothing else. I saw perfection in him and wanted, needed a school that was different”. She homeschooled for a few years before stumbling upon Rainbow Community School. She had heard about it previously, but had been turned off by rumors from the past. When she visited the school herself, however, what she found astounded her. While she had experience with multi-disciplinary learning and broad thematic units, the depths of “holistic education” were totally unknown to her and yet resonated on profoundly personal and spiritual levels.
Having attended catholic school for all of her education, Sheila was used to having spirituality be part of her school culture. While she didn’t want catholic school for her kids, she did want them to have a safe space in which to explore and openly talk about their spiritualities. She was relieved to see that here was this school that neither shied away from integrating the spiritual into the pedagogical, nor held onto religiously dogmatic beliefs in the classroom. She both enrolled her sons and applied to work at Rainbow immediately. While she had always taught Middle School math and sciences, she was offered the special challenge of being the new 3rd grade teacher. Her sons started preschool and kindergarten and so began the epic saga of the Mraz family at Rainbow. Three years later Max Mrax, Sheila’s husband, joined the facilities department and soon thereafter Sheila transitioned from being a full time Rainbow teacher, to being a full time Rainbow cheerleader and Admissions Director.
It’s clear to anyone who has ever interacted with Sheila why she makes such a great Admissions Director. Not only is she insanely passionate about Rainbow and holistic education as both a teacher and a parent, not only can she bring her experiences as a teacher at other schools into the conversation, not only is she charismatic, emotionally intelligent, and socially adept, but she also has a sparkling authenticity that flows through her every interaction. When asked if she ever gets tired of giving the same tour to prospective families she responds, “Not at all. Every tour is going to be completely different. The first thing I ask is, ‘What question do you want to make sure is answered by the time you leave today?’ and always that first question that’s on the top of their heart helps me navigate the conversation because I know that that’s what’s most important to them.” In many ways Sheila sees her role as reaching far beyond Rainbow. She is both a gatekeeper to our community as well as a beacon of light to so many families who are looking for something different, something profound. When she welcomes prospective families into her magnificent sunlit, plant-filled office she takes the time, energy, and heart-space to create a safe environment. She explains it this way, “I know that when they’re talking about their most precious person in their world, their child, many emotions come up and I want to be able to let them know this is a comfortable place. It’s ok to be vulnerable, to open up. I want them to know that not only will you be accepted and loved but your child will be too”.
Sheila acknowledges that not everyone can attend Rainbow and when asked what the hardest part of her job was she immediately replied, “Telling families no. That we don’t have space. Time and time again. That to me, rips my heart out.” Just because a family doesn’t end up attending Rainbow doesn’t mean their relationship with Rainbow is over or that their time and emotional investment in the school was a waste. In fact Sheila thinks that it’s more important than ever before that families, no matter if they end up attending Rainbow or not, come to witness what is truly possible. She says, “I want them to know that this is what education can look like… and should look like. I want them to have this type of model to envision for their child. If they can come here, awesome, but in reality so few can, and I want them all to see education from a different angle. I see that as one one my most important roles.”
At heart Sheila is a changemaker, a feeler, and a doer. She is highly tuned into the emotional and social domains and is constantly considering her place within her community and how best to support all those around her. Plus, she is an absolute dynamo of a self-starter. A true live wire. Something you might not know about Sheila is that when her kids were little and she had stopped teaching for five years, she and her husband Max, started not one but two businesses: a white water rafting business and an event planning business. Now that she’s been in the groove of admissions for six years, she’s finally started the photography business she’s fantasized about for years. You can look her up at http://sheilamraz.com/photography/. This woman just does not stop.
And this featurette on Sheila would be utterly incomplete without an explicit shout out to Rainbow Community School Admissions, so… if you’d like to find out more about the school (especially Omega Middle School 😉 check out our website to request a private tour with Sheila! She’ll be so happy to welcome you into her loving office, ready to hear what’s at the very top of your heart.