Jan Spreeman might be the best example of what Stillwater’s Human Rights Award means, according to one Human Rights Commission member.
“Jan represents the very essence of this award,” said Don Hovland a commission member and long-time friend and colleague of Spreeman. “His days are spent in caring for every person he meets, he is a giver in all areas and he uses his higher levels of thinking and engages the community to make a difference in the world.”
Spreeman was presented the Human Rights Award Tuesday night by the Stillwater City Council and Human Rights Commission. Spreeman was honored for his service as a social studies teacher at Stillwater’s junior and senior high schools.
Spreeman’s retired from teaching but throughout his life, he promoted understanding of cultures and allowed people to seek their own meaning in life through teaching.
“(Winning the award) is a complete shock, It’s just a wonderful thing,” Spreeman said. “I really feel the way that some folks I’ve talked to about this, that hopefully there’ll come a day for human rights when we won’t need awards to recognize the work we do and it will just be commonplace.”
In the past Spreeman has served as a member on SEED, implemented world religions classes at the schools and also had community education classes on the topic. He created philosophy classes at the high school with the help of his students. Spreeman’s also made a difference on an international level by participating in Books for Botswana.
“Jan’s never stopped learning. He’s one of those people who worried about what he didn’t know, learned what he could and passed on his knowledge to students and the wider community.” Hovland said. “He connects with students that are both learning disabled and absolutely brilliant. He’s the kind of teacher that makes an impact and has students visit him year after year.”
Spreeman believes that everyone can make a difference in the world and how you do that depends on who you are.
“Ask yourself what you can bring to the table, what are your strengths. But don’t just sit around and think about that, think about where you can apply those strengths: a food shelf, a church or another community agency,” he said. “It’s also important to join things that are worthy.”
Spreeman believes that the award reflects not only on him but the community as well.
“I’d like to use the opportunity to give a big fat thank you to everyone that’s supported me throughout my work,” he said. “My life has been a reward and the people in it have been the prizes. I feel if I do my job to help people be the best they can be we can change things for the better. (The award) is a lovely, wonderful gesture and I appreciate it very much.”