Teacher reflects on her journey to Prosper

Janette Church gives story of overcoming stroke, shares her path to art


Photo Courtesy of Janette Church

Eyes closed, art teacher Janette Church lies in a hospital bed after brain surgery. Church underwent brain surgery on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, after having a stroke. The surgery reestablish blood flow to her left brain.

It was supposed to be a regular Tuesday for art teacher Janette Church, but instead, March 19, 2019, ended in shock.

Music blasted throughout the gym in the early morning hours as bodies moved fast to the beat around her. Halfway through her daily high-intensity workout, Church started to “feel off.” By the end of the day, Church underwent complicated brain surgery.

Church has taught art for 12 years, but in the midst of her teaching career, a spontaneous dissection of her internal carotid artery — better known as a stroke — took her out of work. After starting an art-based preschool out of her home and moving with her family into an RV full time, Church began teaching art at the elementary level, so her children could have a school to attend.

Arms wide, art teacher Janette Church works in the midst of her students on a collaborative piece of artwork. Church began her teaching career in 2009 when she opened an art-based preschool out of her home. In 2014,  Church made the transition to teaching in public schools where she began in Frisco ISD. She has been in Prosper since 2019. (Photo Courtesy of Janette Church)

“In 2014, we sold our entire lives — our house —  (we) sold everything in it, and were full-time RVers for four years,” Church said. “When you do that, you don’t have a residence, so you can’t register for school anywhere. I knew I needed to go teach, so my children could have somewhere to go to school.”

After interviewing at multiple places, including Prosper High School, Church took a job at Scott Elementary School in the Frisco Independent School District, where she spent the next five years.

“At Scott Elementary, I was the team leader for the specials team,” Church said. “I was the yearbook director, and the yearbook director in elementary is a one-man job, who does the entire yearbook. I was the assembly director, planning all of the assemblies, which were weekly, and the art teacher with 750 students.”

The several responsibilities Church had at Scott Elementary came to a halt, though, when Church suffered a stroke that sent her to the hospital in a helicopter and straight into brain surgery.

“I woke up and went to an early morning workout class,” Church said. “Prior to that, it was just a regular Tuesday morning for me. Halfway through that workout, I lost vision in my left eye. I finished the workout and on the drive home, my arm began to feel very funny.”

Once Church realized that something was truly wrong, she decided to call her husband, Gary Church, a Garland firefighter and paramedic, who advised her to call 911.

“It was terrible,” Church’s friend of 16 years, Erika Mitchell, said. “I learned about it on Facebook. I wasn’t one of the first to be informed or anything like that, but I remember telling Tanner (Mitchell’s husband) she might die. It was awful, I could just only think about her kids and how would Gary pick up and move on. She’s an irreplaceable spirit.”

With one eye half-closed, art teacher Janette Church documents the symptoms of her stroke. Church noticed a blurring of her vision and a loss of feeling in her limbs during her morning workout on March 19, 2019. Church’s stroke, a spontaneous dissection of her internal carotid artery, caused a complete blockage of blood flow to her left brain. (Photo Courtesy of Janette Church)

After her time in the hospital, Church was determined to get right back to normal and resume her teaching and other responsibilities.

“I left the hospital with an extreme stutter,” Church said. “I couldn’t use my right leg, I dragged my right leg everywhere. I had a lot of neurological deficits that I had to go through a lot of therapy for, but I was determined to get right back to my elementary art teaching job.”

Despite her desire to return to work, the effects of her stroke made Church realize that the amount of work she was doing at the elementary level wasn’t something she could do anymore.

“That’s what brought me to Prosper in 2019, realizing that I needed to scale back the amount and volume of work I was doing,” Church said. “But, also, I was moving on. My kids were in middle school, and I was moving on, also.”

After recovering from her stroke, Church began working at Rogers Middle School in Prosper for the following two years until a position became available at Prosper High School, where she began teaching this year.

“I’m really excited for the first time to work with a team of art educators,” Church said. “At the elementary level, where I taught for five years, you’re all by yourself. You’re not really collaborating with anybody every day. And then, at the middle school, I did have another teacher that I worked with, but it was just her and I. So, I’m excited to work on a team and just plan how we can really blow up the art program.”

Church said she hopes to follow in the footsteps of her high school art teacher and provide a place for students who feel like they aren’t proficient in anything but art.

Standing in front of a fire engine in the white blouse, art teacher Janette Church meets the first responders who picked her up after her stroke. Church’s husband, Gary Church, is also a firefighter and paramedic, but in Garland. “I left the hospital with an extreme stutter,” Church said. “I couldn’t use my right leg, I dragged my right leg everywhere. I had a lot of neurological deficits that I had to go through a lot of therapy for, but I was determined to get right back to my elementary art teaching job.” (Photo Courtesy of Janette Church)

“I didn’t have plans to go to college, I was just such a mediocre student. I would say that I teach art because there’s kids out there like me that excel in nothing except art,” Church said. “And I want to give those kids a voice and give them a sense of confidence like my sophomore year teacher did. I mean, she changed the trajectory of my life.”

The first interview Church ever had as a public school teacher was at Prosper High School, and now, seven years later, the opportunity to finally work at the place she originally hoped to has come to fruition.

“I hope that all of her hopes and dreams come true,” her husband, Gary Church, said. “Just the satisfaction that she’s always strives for in her teaching career. She’s always enjoyed teaching, and I hope she’ll enjoy this.”

As the school year has rolled around, Church plans to use what she learned from her stroke to teach students that they can accomplish anything if they put their minds to it.

“I’ll often share that experience with them,” Church said. “I’ll say to them: ‘You know, if I can learn to walk again, if I can learn to talk again without a stutter, if I can learn all my multiplication facts again, like I had to learn how to spell again, if I can learn all of these things again, then you can learn the techniques for this project that we’re doing – no matter how frustrating it is.”