Think a cop’s job is tough? Try teaching.


Ozaukee Press staff

Steve Footit faced plenty of challenges during his 25-year career as a Port Washington police officer, but it’s his new part-time job that put him to the real test.

He never saw what was coming when he joined Cedar Grove-Belgium Elementary School this fall as an fourth-grade aide.

“The first two or three weeks my head was spinning,” Footit said. “I wasn’t sure what was expected of me.”

He told his wife this might not be the job for him, but Maggie said to give it some time.

The venture started to get better when Footit began to figure out his role and settle into a groove.

“Now it’s actually fine. I have not gone home and popped two Tylenol right away for a while,” he said.

Footit’s job essentially consists of anything that can free up time for the teachers,” he said.

Putting together packets for math projects, handling permission slips and making copies are some of the tasks. The other day, he spent his entire six-hour shift cutting construction paper for all 55 fourth-graders for an activity that helps them visualize fractions.

Footit has plenty of interaction with children as well. He tutors those who need extra help in any subject, and he helps them with typing out short stories.

He loves working with the students.

“Every kid is like their own little ball of energy. They all want to tell you something or share a concern,” he said. “Multiply that by three classrooms.”

Footit also supervises lunch and recess, with the goal of the latter being pretty simple — “so they’re not walking in with so many bruises,” he said.

The students can be a handful when they’re in big groups and Footit said he sometimes has to be stern.

“But they stop and listen. I never get any sass or backtalk. They let me say what needs to be said,” he said.

Footit received his own teaching moment during his first indoor recess. About two-thirds of the students went to play in the gym, where Footit was in charge.

“I hadn’t quite got the feel for the job yet, and the kids just exploded into the gym,” he said.

Two sustained injuries and were sent to the office, and the end of recess was havoc as well.

“Adults would take turns putting equipment away,” Footit said. “Fourth-grade minds rushed all at once and made a mess.”

Now, indoor recess is spent in the classroom, not the gym.

“We’re not doing that again,” Footit said.

Footit chose fourth grade — the oldest in the school — because he thought he could relate his “old-man life lessons,” but the pupils were not ready for that quite yet.

“They want to know when the bell rings,” he said.

Footit had to get a substitute teacher’s license to become an aide, and his new job quickly made him appreciate the challenges teachers face.

“I had no idea what an elementary school teacher’s day was like until I saw it. First you have to get kids’ attention. Then you have to teach them math, science and social studies. I never thought it was so intense, and it’s intense for the entire day. I have a huge appreciation for what they do.”

Footit said he is thankful his educational experience started as an aide.

“If I came in as a substitute teacher, kids would have eaten me up,” he said.

It’s the support and encouragement aspect of his job that Footit enjoys most — the same elements he loved about being a police officer.

Both of his jobs came through inspiration from family members.

The 1987 Oshkosh West High School graduate grew up around law enforcement workers. His father was a guard at the Waupun Correctional Institution, his cousin was the sheriff of Winnebago County and his brother, older by 20 years, was an Oshkosh police officer. Footit remembers as a kid he enjoyed flipping on the flashing lights when his brother would drive a squad car home.

Footit decided to attend Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton and earn the 60 credits required to be an officer.

Once he was ready to be hired, location was not a priority.

“I said anywhere in the state that offers me a job, I’m taking it,” he said.

Footit turned out to be pleased he landed in Port Washington because it was a small community with a low crime rate. Arresting people and handing out tickets was his least-favorite part.

“I thank God every day that they hired me,” he said. “I got into the work wanting to help people with issues and their problems. I really liked to counsel the families and young adults.”

His career usually only allowed for 10 to 15 minutes of that type of assistance.

“A police officer’s job is a short-term fix,” Footit said. “In a small community you have time to hammer on the small stuff so it doesn’t grow into big stuff.”

Footit retired from the force last April, and it wasn’t long before he got the itch to get another job.

“After a couple of weeks of not doing anything I was already bored,” he said.Having bills to pay and a wife whose data analyst job had her working from home permanently after the pandemic were also factors.

“She was more than happy for me to get out of the house,” he said.

Footit worked with the summer cleaning crew for the Port Washington-Saukville School District — he said he appreciated the grunt work and not having to think or problem solve all day long — before becoming an elementary school aide.

His cousin in Oshkosh inspired the move to education. He had worked as an accountant for years. When he realized he couldn’t do it anymore, he got his substitute teacher’s license and told Footit it was the best thing he ever did.

“I was really not planning to do this. He planted that seed,” Footit said.

The Monday-to-Friday schedule was also appealing after regularly working weekends and holidays as a police officer.

Footit is familiar with the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District. After moving his family from Port to a bigger house in Belgium, his son attended district schools and his two daughters are CG-B high school students.