In December, we asked you to nominate the remarkable women in your life for some special recognition. We received many incredible nominations from all over KELOLAND. Now we’ve selected four finalists and will be sharing their stories with you every Tuesday this March.
Our first 2021 Remarkable Women nominee is Randi Van Der Sloot.
Randi Van Der Sloot has always loved working with people of all abilities.
“I have a degree as a recreational therapist, I worked at a camp called Camp Courage, it’s for kids and adults with physical disabilities and sensory impairments. I did that for many, many years,” Randi said.
She’s 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 that I didn’t want to be behind a desk, I wanted to have action and work and have a ripple effect, specifically in the middle school or high school range,” Randi said.
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, how to be a great employee, how to be a good partner for somebody, how to be a good teammate, how to accept criticism and grow from it, how to accept praise and grow from it.”
“Even though she’s a teacher, she just makes kids feel so comfortable, even if they’re having a bad day,” Roosevelt High School junior Morgan Blake said.
‘Mrs. V’ knows all of her students by name and takes the time to listen and encourage them in all areas of life.
“She’s not only just a teacher but a mentor. And I have wanted to grow and make myself better because of the influence she has had on my life,” Blake said.
She’s shared her unique care and compassion with students for 13-years, creating a ripple of positivity all over the Sioux Falls area.
“Honestly, I hope that then they have gone and touched somebody else’s life, so I hope whatever my number is. it’s tiny compared to who they have impacted subsequently,” Randi said.
Her newest project helps her reach even more students.
“Two years ago, Unity, Inc was born,” Randi said.
She combined her two careers into an all abilities show choir.
“To my knowledge, we’re the first all-ability show choir to have competed in our peer group in the nation,” Randi said.
The program is gaining attention from all over the country thanks to the passion of the students involved.
“Everybody is excited to be there,” Randi said. “It is about 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 makes us feel special and makes us feel at home,” her daughter Arlyn Van Der Sloot said.
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, that’s when my oldest daughter was about 18 months old,” Randi said.
Over the past five years, she’s been on an emotional rollercoaster with cancer.
“I had chemo and radiation, I did have a double mastectomy and reconstruction as well,” Randi said.
After a year of treatment, she was cancer-free, but was told it came at the cost of having any more kids.
“I was in a chemo-induced menopause,” Randi said.
Then, during one of her final reconstruction surgeries…
“I said I think I need to take a pregnancy test,” Randi said.
Her medical journey took a high climb with news she never expected to hear.
“Congratulations we’re pregnant! It was just the greatest moment and so she is truly a miracle baby, she is not supposed to be here, she is the greatest miracle we never knew we needed,” Randi said of her daughter Olivia.
After such a high, her cancer journey continued…
“I started combing my hair and it was just coming out in tufts,” Randi said.
…taking an unexpected dip in December.
“What they discovered is that I have metastatic breast cancer, it’s two kinds, the triple-negative, but it also spread to my lungs,” Randi said.
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,” Randi said.
But even facing another diagnosis…
“I’ll just shave it, it’s fine, I like to rock the bald,” Randi said.
Randi continues to radiate joy.
“I do show choir from 6:00-9:00 on Monday nights, I do chemo on Tuesdays I have my rest day on Wednesdays and then I have Thursday and Friday to teach,” Randi said.
And once again, she’s not letting cancer slow her down.
“She has never not had a smile on her face. For her to be able to stay positive and to stay strong throughout all of the trials that she’s faced, it’s just so, inspiring,” Blake said.
A positive spirit filled with enough inspiration to help those around her stay filled with joy too.
“She’s always so beautiful and so kind and she’s the best mom ever,” Arlyn said.
Her students have already hosted two fundraisers that have been widely successful in helping the Van Der Sloot family with medical expenses. Those same students are also responsible for nominating her for KELOLAND’s Remarkable Women contest.
We will introduce you to the next three finalists every Tuesday in March. Then we’ll announce the winner during our Remarkable Women special in April.