‘She truly loved education’


A little more than a week after Elaine Daubenspeck — a respected former Heritage Hills High School senior English teacher and most recently a North Spencer School Board member — died from stage 4 lung cancer, North Spencer Superintendent Dan Scherry reflected on a text message she sent him weeks before from her hospital bed.


Diagnosed late in the disease’s development, she told Scherry that her more than 30 years as an educator had made for a ton of lasting, loving and giving friendships.

And before long, she was gone. She died on June 19 at 70 years old.

But the impact the Santa Claus woman had on North Spencer Schools will not be forgotten by those who knew her dry wit, sense of fairness and deep love of education.

Scherry and high school English teacher Annie Gunselman will soon submit an application to honor Daubenspeck with the Lorin A. Burt Outstanding Educator Award, which is awarded by the Indiana School Boards Association. A celebration of life ceremony is also tentatively scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 7, at the high school.

“This was her family,” Scherry said when asked about her legacy. “The idea that Heritage Hills is family and that she gave everything she had literally until the last day that she was on this earth to this place. I don’t know what else you could say.”

Daubenspeck was an English teacher who began teaching at Dale High School in 1970 before moving to Heritage Hills when it opened in 1972, and she retired in 2004. She joined the North Spencer School Board in 2007, and served as the entity’s president from 2015 through the end of 2017.

Scherry said that during her time as a board member, Daubenspeck actively attended board professional development meetings and workshops. Her involvement on the board, he said, showed that she really cared about learning, even after she had retired from teaching.

She was a member of the school board up until her death and was planning to run for re-election. The board has not yet determined if her seat will remain vacant through the upcoming election or if an appointee will fill it in the meantime.

High school Principal Nick Alcorn, who began working with Daubenspeck in 1988 as a social studies teacher, said Daubenspeck always had a smile and a laugh. She could connect with all students in her classes and never blamed them for their shortcomings.

“Every single kid mattered to her,” he said. “It wasn’t like, ‘I taught it, if they didn’t learn it, it’s their own fault.’ No. It was, ‘I’ve got 30 kids in this classroom, and I have got to do whatever is necessary to get all 30 kids.’”

And then second period would come, and she’d have 30 more. When the school day ended, she’d keep going. Alcorn remembered how he, Daubenspeck and Gunselman would write and act out skits at school pep sessions. Daubenspeck was the school’s cheerleading coach for a year in the late 1970s — not because she wanted to be, but because the position needed filled, and she stepped up to the plate. In 1992, she was part of the first group of teachers who attended a team-building retreat in Brown County that started a snowball effect with teachers’ involvement in the school’s decision-making process.

“As busy as she was, if a colleague ever came into her classroom in a passing period or before or after school, she would stop what she was doing and have time for you,” Alcorn said.

A few years after she retired, Heritage Hills staff members were thrilled to hear she was running for the district’s school board because they knew her passion for education and how concerned she was about the kids. Scherry said their well-being was always her top priority.

“I think when she was at the Dale Legion, when she was at a ball game, a musical, out to eat, I think Heritage Hills was on her mind,” Scherry said. “I think that she was thinking about, are we doing the right things? What can we do differently? How can we be better?”

Alcorn added: “I would concur 100 percent that everything — it was North Spencer (to Daubenspeck). She truly loved education.”

Daubenspeck’s husband, Alan, currently resides at Scenic Hills Care Center in Ferdinand.

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com