Last December, KELOLAND asked you to nominate the remarkable woman in your life for some special recognition. They received dozens of incredible nominations from all over KELOLAND. They selected four finalists to share more of their stories on KELOLAND Living, presented by Davenport Evans Law Firm.
Now it’s time to announce our winner. Randi Van Der Sloot is KELOLAND’s 2021 Remarkable Woman. As you are about to find out, her influence and impact, go beyond her teaching career.
Randi Van Der Sloot has always loved working with people of all abilities. “I have a degree as a recreational therapist, so I worked at a camp called Camp Courage, it’s for kids and adults with disabilities and sensory impairments.” She is continuing that passion today through Roosevelt High School’s Best Buddies program. But 13 years ago she changed her career to fit another passion, “I realized I didn’t want to be behind a desk. I wanted to have action in work and have a ripple effect specifically in the middle school and high school.
Now her world is filled with music. “The subject I teach is choir and music, but really we’re doing so much more than that,” Randi said, “I teach about life. I teach how to be a good citizen and how to be a great employee. How to accept criticism and grow from it. How to accept praise and grow from it.”
Remarkable Women Special and Winner Announcement
As Roosevelt High School Junior Morgan Blake explained, “You know, even though she’s a teacher, she just makes kids feel so comfortable. Like, no matter what, if they’re having a bad day.”
Mrs. V knows all of her students by name and takes the time to listen and encourage her students in all areas of life. “She’s not only just a teacher but she’s a mentor,” Morgan continued, “I wanted to grow and I wanted to make myself better because of the influence she has had in my life.”
Her newest project helps her reach even more students. “So two years ago ‘Unity, Inc.’ was born,” Randi explained. She combined her two careers into this all-abilities show choir. “To my knowledge, we are the first all-abilities show choir to have competed in our peer group in the nation.” The program is gaining attention from all over the country thanks to the passion of the students involved. “Everybody is excited to be there. It is the joy of friendship. The joy of singing, the joy of dancing, the joy of doing your thing on stage.” Randi’s life is filled with joy.
When she’s not with her students, she’s entertaining her two- and six-year-old daughters. “She always takes care of us and she makes us feel special and makes us feel at home,” Arlyn Van Der Sloot, age six.
Randi’s joyful spirit clearly shines in all areas of her life, even when her situation looks otherwise. “I was first diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2015,” Randi recalled, “That’s when my oldest daughter was about eighteen months old.” Over the past five years, she’s been on an emotional roller coaster with cancer. “Chemo and radiation. I did have a double mastectomy and reconstruction,” After a year of treatment, she was cancer-free but was told it came at the cost of not having any more kids. “I was in a chemo-induced menopause.”
Then, during one of her final reconstruction surgeries, Randi said, “I said, I think I need to take a pregnancy test.” Her medical journey took a high climb with the news she never expected to hear, “Congratulations, we’re pregnant!” Randi added, “It was just the greatest moment, so she is truly a miracle baby. She is not supposed to be here. She is the greatest miracle we never knew we needed.”
After such a high, her cancer journey continued, taking an unexpected dip in December. “What they discovered is that I have metastatic breast cancer. So it’s the same, well it’s two kinds of breast cancer. I have the triple-negative, but then it also spread to my lungs.” Now she’s back to chemo and started a new immunotherapy treatment, as well. “You get into the fighting spirit. I have a group called Randi’s warriors and they are my prayer team.” Even facing another diagnosis, Randi continues to radiate joy. “I go and do show choir from 6-9 pm Monday nights, I do chemo on Tuesdays, I have my rest day on Wednesdays, and then Thursday, Friday, teach.” And once again, she’s not letting cancer slow her down. Morgan said, “She has never not had a smile on her face. And for her to be able to just stay positive and stay strong throughout everything, all of the trials that she’s faced, is inspiring.”
A positive spirit, filled with enough inspiration to help those around her stay filled with joy, too. As six-year-old Arlyn put it, “Um, she’s always so beautiful and so kind. And she’s the best mom ever.”
Truly an inspiration. Now her students have already hosted several fundraisers that have been widely successful in helping the Van Der Sloot family with medical expenses. Those same students were also responsible for nominating her for KELOLAND’s Remarkable Women contest.
Nexstar will make a $1,000 contribution on behalf of Randi and the non-profit organization of her choice. All 113 local winners from across the country will participate in an exclusive Virtual Telecast airing on Nexstar’s national news and entertainment cable network on April 10. The one woman will be announced as the 2021 “Nexstar Woman of the Year” during that broadcast. The Nexstar Charitable Foundation will make a $5,000 contribution on behalf of the “Nexstar Woman of the Year” to the non-profit organization of her choice.
Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith, LLP, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of the State’s largest law firms. The firm’s attorneys provide business and litigation counsel to individuals and corporate clients in a variety of practice areas. For more information about Davenport Evans, visit www.dehs.com.