Jaegel’s highest bar: she never missed a day of school

Steve Gerace
Janelle Jaegel

The puppy Janelle Jaegel earned when she graduated from eighth grade having never missed a day of school is four years old now.

Named Nala, like the character in The Lion King, Janelle says her pet is still “the cutest thing.”

Unlike that graduation, Janelle says no such promised gift awaits now that she is finishing high school with her perfect attendance record still intact.

That doesn’t mean there is no reward for setting a record that even MSHS principal Jennifer McKinnon describes as “unheard of.”

“It’s been a good thing to put on college applications,” Janelle said. “It’s a unique thing, and it has been worth it; I’m proud of it.”

Janelle has set many high bars during her four years at Mount Shasta High School, both literally (she’s the school record holder in the pole vault) and figuratively (she holds a 4.23 cumulative grade point average while earning 15 varsity letters and 13 all-league awards in four sports).

Reflecting on the dedication and commitment required for Janelle to go 13 years without missing a day of school, McKinnon said, “When you think about it, it’s like, wow! I’m not aware of anybody else who has done that.”

McKinnon, who presented Janelle with a certificate recognizing her attendance accomplishment, sees her as “a great student and great person... she is really dedicated to excellence in sporting events and school.”

The principal said the commitment extends to Janelle’s family as well. “You think about all the different reasons people don’t come to school; she made it happen.”

Janelle’s track coach Steve Nesheim and basketball coach Kirk Andrus, during interviews about two months apart, both used the word “irreplaceable” to describe her. Andrus said Janelle “works so hard and pays so much attention to what the team needs.” He cited her “tremendous focus” and “great determination.”

She was on Bears cross country, track, and basketball teams that all won multiple championships, and she played for the first league champion volleyball team in school history. In three of her four years, the girls cross country team qualified for and competed at the state meet.

When Janelle won the Northern Section pole vault championship May 24 in Cottonwood, she qualified for the state track and field championships for a second year in a row. (See story on A8). She also received one of the meet’s two sportsmanship awards.

Now Janelle is headed to UC Santa Barbara with $5,000 in local scholarship money, a $1,000 Northern Section scholarship that is presented to just one female student-athlete from among all the middle size schools, $16,000 in state and federal grants, and a $12,000 award from UCSB.

With no plans to compete in interscholastic sports, Janelle said she is interested in getting involved in either a crew or triathlon club program.

She plans to major in biology and hopes to eventually go into optometry. She said she heard a talk by an optometrist in the seventh grade and “thought it was the coolest thing.” Plus, “I love science, and it comes easy.”

Janelle’s mother, Weed Elementary School teacher Tami Frisbie, said, “The attendance thing got started when the kids first began school, and I was a teacher in the same school district they attended. I knew how important ADA was, so I just made sure they were in school. It just kind of took a life of its own on from there. Fortunately, she has always just woke right up in the morning. No complaining or hitting snooze. And most importantly, she has been healthy.”

Janelle said she has rarely been sick, but when she was it was during a holiday or school break.

As it happened, she even attended school on senior skip day. Because that was the same day as the Section Finals meet, she had to attend, Tami said, and she wasn’t alone.

Asked about her perfect attendance record after taking her last high final exam Tuesday, Janelle sounded as surprised as others when they first hear about it. “Looking back on it, I can’t believe it,” she said. “What was I thinking.”