Retiring teachers: Sharing faith and friendships

Bill Schlueter, recently retired English teacher and coach from Roncalli Catholic High School, said bringing faith and friendship into the classroom and sports was a high point of his 47 years at the Omaha school.

"You can talk about the obligation and morality of what is happening" in novels and other material, building indirectly but effectively on what students learn in religion class, Schlueter said.

And prayers at ball games, teaching players to compete with honor and fairness, holding team Masses – all are part of sports and faith in Catholic schools, said Schlueter, a member of St. Leo the Great Parish in Omaha, who over the years at Roncalli was head coach for the volleyball, baseball, boys’ cross-country, girls’ basketball and boys’ golf teams.

Friendships formed with students, teachers and parents also have been important, and will continue into retirement, said Schlueter, who turned the lights out in his classroom for the last time in May.

Schlueter is among 29 teachers and administrators who retired last spring and are being honored in this issue of the Catholic Voice for 25 or more years of service to Catholic schools in the archdiocese. He also is the longest-serving, although nine others served 40 years or more. Thirteen retirees served 30 or more years, and six served a quarter century or longer.

"Bless their hearts for giving so much to Catholic education and the church," Patrick Slattery, superintendent of archdiocesan schools, said of all the retirees. "They are in this to build up the church and work for disciples of Christ. They give so much."

Kathy Redding served 44 years at Mercy High School in Omaha, in a career that included 26 years as librarian and 18 years as the home economics teacher – delivering a range of courses from sewing and tailoring to interior design and architecture, parenting and child development, food and nutrition.

A Christian who appreciates Mercy High’s emphasis on faith, knowledge and service, Redding said faith and friendships with faculty, administrators, students and parents played big roles in her approach and love for teaching.

"It was great to be able to pray with the students, pray with the faculty, with a parent," she said. "Your faith is what gives you strength."

Those touchstones also apply to Chris Arnold and Paula Lenz, both of whom retired last spring after 43 years of service to archdiocesan schools.

Arnold said she was touched by a school Mass the last two years celebrating the sacraments, with a procession that included second-graders after their first Communion and eighth-graders after confirmation.

"There’s something about that … the holiness of it all," said Arnold, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Omaha. "You just hope the kids really grasp what they’ve received."

Lenz said she enjoyed incorporating prayer into everything she did, teaching students about world religions and listening to their concerns.

"The picture of how things fit together … I was able to do that very, very well in a Catholic school," she said.

Arnold spent her entire career at St. James/Seton School in Omaha, where she was honored last spring when administrators named the preschool playground in her honor. She served the last five years as principal and 14 years as assistant principal. Arnold started at the school in 1973 teaching sixth grade, and from 1979 to 1997 she taught reading to students in kindergarten through sixth grade and was an administrative assistant.

Lenz’s career included teaching world history, geography and current affairs the last 14 years at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha.

But her service in archdiocesan schools – all in Omaha – began at St. Philip Neri School from 1971 to 1974, teaching first grade, first- and second-grade religion, seventh- and eighth-grade world history and art.

She taught religion at Boys Town middle and high schools from 1976 to 1986 and Father Flanagan High School from 1986 to 1993; character skills and campus ministry at Skutt Catholic from 1993 to 1998 and then social studies from 2002 until her retirement. She was dean of students at Roncalli Catholic from 1998 to 2001, and while at Skutt Catholic she served as head swimming coach, helped with campus ministry and student council and was chair of the social studies department.

Lenz also taught for two years at a Catholic elementary school in Illinois, one year with the Peace Corps in South Korea and three years in public schools in Millard. She also taught education classes at the College of Saint Mary and Creighton University, both in Omaha.

A member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha, Lenz pointed to friendship as another foundation for her work in Catholic schools.

"I just loved the atmosphere," Lenz said. "I’ve felt very blessed, the administrators I’ve worked with, the colleagues I have worked with over the years. It’s been very, very special."

An additional 25 teachers retired after more than 25 years of service. Click here for more. 

* Correction: Patty Shinkle – 37 years, St. Joan of Arc, first grade (1986 to 2016); Christ the King, third grade (1984 to 1985); St. Margaret Mary, third grade (1977 to 1983); plus one year in Catholic schools in South Dakota and Hawaii.


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