Pilot Point High School mourns death of teacher
By Abigail Allen
A beloved Pilot Point High School teacher, Lisa Wheeler, died two days short of her 64th birthday.
Wheeler, who worked as the PPHS Life Skills teacher as part of her roughly 30 years in special education, is already missed by her students, her coworkers and her administrators.
"She was not just a coworker," STEP aide Ralene Harris said. "She was a friend, and she was family. She loved those kids more than anything in the world."
Wheeler came to Pilot Point High School while Superintendent Todd Southard was still high school principal.
"When I talked with her at the very beginning, you could tell that special education was her passion," Southard said. "That's what she thought was her purpose in life."
Despite having retired once before and qualifying to do it again, Wheeler planned to hold off as long as she could.
"She was worrying about retiring until certain ones would graduate because she didn't want to leave them," Harris said. "She always thought about certain things that certain ones have already been through in their life, and she didn't want to burden them more by leaving them and causing that pain. … She was the best, hands down."
During the 2020-21 school year, Wheeler taught from home, fully engaging with the students while helping care for her granddaughter.
"That's how I got to know her, was through a computer screen," PPHS Principal Jacob Williams said. "She was the only employee I hadn't met in person come spring. She knew—she had a really, really in-depth knowledge of every kid in the classroom. She knew their backstory; she knew their strengths and weaknesses."
Wheeler loved her family deeply as well, Williams said.
"Her daughter is one of the sweetest people I've [interacted] with," he said. "You can tell she was raised the right way by her mama. She touched more than just her own kids. There are a lot of folks out there right now that owe their future to her."
He said Wheeler seemed to be good at "separating work from home."
She also was trying to be careful in the face of the pandemic.
Her health kept her out of the school from the winter break on.
"We knew that she had been struggling for some quite some time," Southard said. "And so, you know, even though it didn't necessarily come as a shock, it didn't make it any easier."
Wheeler was so dedicated to her students that she kept checking in with Southard, Williams and Harris from her hospital room.
"Even when she was dealing with her latest illness, she would text me and say, 'How is this going? Do you need lesson plans? Do you need anything?'" Williams said. "That was literally right up to the end."
Harris said they all encouraged her to focus on her health and healing.
"We kept telling her, 'Please don't worry about it,'" she said.
Her love for her students and their families fueled her life.
"Lisa was an incredibly kind person," Southard said. "Very tenderhearted. Very—she was soft-spoken; she's incredibly patient. And her love was helping special needs students."
The PPHS staff and administration are hoping to find a good way to honor Wheeler.
"She was a big part of everybody's life," Harris said. "The students, the parents. Past students and parents. She made a mark on so many people."
There will be a memorial service for Wheeler at 3 p.m. March 5 at the Frisco Commons Main Pavilion, 8000 McKinney Road, Frisco.