For Wilson Schoellkopf – Vestry member, native Dallasite, cradle Episcopalian – a passage from one of John Lennon’s songs strikes close to home. With several careers under his belt, the line “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans” has been his experience.
Here are seven things you didn’t know about Wilson:
1. He hated math throughout his life, but now loves teaching it to underprivileged children.
“I hated every minute of it when I was in school,” he said. “I always took the easiest courses and the minimum necessary.” But then he began working on a teaching certificate and was required to take a course about how to teach math. When he completed the certification program, tutoring math was the only job available. “After three months, I fell in love with it. Now I can’t imagine teaching anything else.”
2. He’s had three careers.
Wilson has worked in advertising, as a flight instructor and, most recently, in education. “Education is where my heart is,” he said.
3. He’s passionate about teaching low income students. And he’ll work for food.
Affluent families can pay for tutors when their children struggle in school, but students from low-income families have fewer choices. So he spends two days a week tutoring at Reinhardt Elementary School, which is one of the outreach ministries of our church, and one day teaching another student. “Who helps the kids who are struggling in math but can’t afford to hire a tutor?” he said. “Where do they get help? I’m glad I can fill a bit of that need.” And he accepts payment based on what families can afford. The mother of one of his students cooks for him once or twice a month. “That’s all the payment I need,” he said.
4. He was raised in the Episcopal Church, but drifted away beginning in college. Then he walked in the door at St. John’s and renewed his relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I went through a difficult period,” he said. “Something was missing in my life, and I wanted to find it. I realized it was my connection to God through Christ, and the church is the most natural way to build those connections.” After years away from church, he wandered into St. John’s on a Sunday morning three years ago and has been here ever since. “Coming back to Christ is one of the most significant, meaningful experiences of my adult life,” he said. “It’s been very special. It’s never too late to come back.”
5. He loves to read history and biographies and watch obscure foreign films.
He’s currently reading a book about Zimbabwe and recently finished biographies of former President Lyndon Johnson and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. When he’s not buried in a book, he enjoys watching Scandinavian and Romanian films. He also watches a cooking show with his wife, Lynde, and daughter, Willow. “If you’re interested in the culture of another place, a great way to get a peek at it is to watch movies,” he said.
6. He loves to travel. It helps that he speaks conversational French and Portuguese.
Travel destinations have included Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Iceland, Finland, South Africa, Mali, Mozambique, Kenya and most of the countries in Western Europe. Portugal is a favorite destination, and he taught English in Lisbon for nine months.
7. He wants more people at St. John’s to get involved in service.
“If you’re wondering how you can help – don’t be afraid to ask, jump in and try something,” he said. “If you don’t like it, you can try something else.” Of course, he’d love to get more parishioners to volunteer at Reinhardt Elementary. “There’s lots of things you can do there if you like working with kids,” he said.