HJ/EDMay 22, 2006

Jan Kappel retiring after long teaching career

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Jan Kappel, retiring Holy Trinity fifth grade teacher, was just 19 years old when she began teaching.

Kappel had just completed her second year at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph and had no money to return to school for her junior year.

At the same time, she was fortunate enough to be offered a fourth grade teaching position at St. Anthony’s in St. Cloud, teaching 43 students.

“I always wanted to teach, from the time I was in second grade. We would play school and I always wanted to grow up and be a teacher,” Kappel said.

She grew up in St. Cloud, where she lived with her parents, three sisters, and three brothers. She went to school in St. Cloud, graduated from Cathedral High School, and worked in St. Cloud.

It wasn’t until she married her husband, Jean, Jan. 20, 1962, that she left the St. Cloud area and did some traveling. While Jean was in the service, they lived in New Jersey and New York, then St. Paul, St. Cloud, Willmar, and North Dakota, before moving to Oster, between Winsted and Waverly, in 1980.

Kappel had various teaching positions throughout her marriage, but decided in 1981 that she would like to go back to school and get her teaching degree.

In the fall of 1983, the same year she got her bachelor of science degree from St. Cloud State, she was offered her first full-time position at Holy Trinity teaching fourth grade.

Throughout her 23 years at Holy Trinity she has taught all grade levels, first through sixth. She taught third grade the longest, 13 years; and fifth grade for six years.

“From all of my experiences with Jan, as a fellow faculty member and as a parent of some of her students, I have discovered that she has a gift of making class not only fun, but has the ability to motivate students beyond themselves,” said Tony Kielkucki, Holy Trinity principal.

Any student who has had Kappel as a teacher will excitedly tell you about her reward system.

The younger grades would get pretend money for just coming to school, or it would be attached to an assignment if the student did well. That money could be used to purchase items at Kappel’s classroom “store” at different times during the school week.

Kappel found it challenging to keep the store stocked with interesting things that the kids would like to buy like pencils, paper, and stickers.

Then, there was always the students who liked to save their money until the end of the year and Kappel would have to come up with something that they were willing to spend their hard earned money on.

Today, teaching fifth grade, she uses the Good Time Ticket. One ticket is given to each student, each day their assignment notebook is turned in with their parent’s signature. The Good Time Ticket can be traded for a snack.

Kappel has appreciated the fact that she has been able to teach in a Catholic school, and she is glad for the opportunity to teach values with academics.

She feels that teaching has taught her “the need to see the whole person, and sometimes, what you see is not what they are. Give them time. Don’t just look at their actions,” Kappel explained.

Jan and Jean have five children, Judy, 43; Joan, 42; Jeff, 39; Jill, 36; and Jimmy, 34. All of their children graduated from Holy Trinity High School. They have 10 grandchildren, ranging in age from 20 years old to two.

The future

Kappel has many plans when the school year ends. She would like to finish some sewing and knitting projects that she has started over the years, do some volunteering, and play bridge on Tuesday mornings at the Blue Note.

Jean will be retiring in August and together, they have many ideas on how to spend their time together.

They have a six-week trip to Arizona planned for next January or February.

They will also spend one week in Fort Meyers, Fla. in March, when the Twins baseball team has its spring training.

Kappel has been a Minnesota Twins’ fan since the late ‘80s and ‘90s. The Kappels have always had two partial season tickets and Jan is an avid collector of Twins’ autographs and memorabilia.

Although this trip will be a little different then the time Jean and Jan drove from their home in North Dakota in a van with five kids and a dog (Kappel could not remember if they had the dog along for sure, but was pretty sure they did), she is hoping the outcome will be the same. She will be very happy to return to Minnesota with a few more Minnesota Twins’ autographs.

With all of Kappel’s plans for retirement, she also hopes to do some subtitute teaching. She still wants the opportunity to spend some time with students, who she feels give her energy. “I will miss the kids,” Kappel admits.

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