E.V. Cain teacher is history after 40 years

Koester says she’s loved seeing students become passionate about the past
By: Bridget Jones Journal Staff Writer
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Kathy Koester has seen multiple generations of Auburn families during her time at E.V. Cain Charter Middle School. Koester is retiring after 40 years at the school. Her career there all started with a suggestion from her mother-in-law. “I trained to be a high school teacher, and there were no jobs available,” Koester said. “And so my mother-in-law suggested I teach the eighth grade, and I have just really enjoyed teaching the students. I like the staff members, and I like the age group and I just think it’s a great school to be teaching at.” Koester said she has experience with multiple subjects, but has focused on one during half her time at the school. “I have taught every subject there, but mostly I have taught English, language arts, history,” she said. “And for the last 20 years I have taught just American History.” Koester said some of her fondest memories of her career are changing her students’ minds about learning. “I have watched some students who were just not at all excited about learning, and by the time they left they are so jazzed about it,” she said. “So, watching these students develop a passion for learning, and learning American History, was just one of the things I have been really excited about. And after 40 years there have been a lot of students that do that.” Koester said she has also enjoyed seeing her students realize that everyone can love history. “Even today my students go, ‘You have traveled to all those places and all those historical sites?’” she said. “And I say, ‘Yes, I have.’ They are just amazed that I love history and I’m a normal person. History is never a favorite subject for eighth graders.” Working with fellow eighth grade American History teacher Sylvia Haverberg has also been a pleasure, Koester said. “I think with the help of Sylvia Haverberg, we have put together a really dynamic eighth grade history curriculum that engages students in learning,” she said. “I think the fact that we have done the (Washington,) D.C. trips and we can get back into the historic sites is really important.” The two have been taking eighth graders on the trip for 15 years now, and students get to experience first-hand the battlefields, monuments and archives of the area through northern and southern trips, Koester said. Koester said she has had students who are the children of some of her original students. “I have had some of those recently, yes,” she said. “It’s kind of interesting because they have heard from their parents about the school and about me as a teacher. It’s really a lot of fun to have children of former students of mine.” Randy Ittner, E.V. Cain principal, said Koester has always been interested in continually improving the learning environment. “One thing about Kathy (I learned) when I first came here, she has to be the most dedicated teacher I have ever worked with,” Ittner said. “(She is) willing to make change, always rewriting curriculum, never giving up on children.” Ittner said benchmark assessments that Koester helped develop are now implemented throughout the school. Koester’s personality already has staff and students feeling a certain way about her retirement, Ittner said. “They are sad, because she’s just such a positive person,” he said. Carol Thomas, a special education teacher who is also retiring this year, said Koester is supportive of all students. “I always appreciate teachers who are willing to accept every child, and modify and accommodate my students in particular, and Kathy is the master,” Thomas said. “She always has been. She makes sure every child is successful in her class, and that’s an incredible gift to all of us.” E.V. Cain eighth-grader Clare Jolley, 13, said she is sad that she won’t be able to visit Koester next year. “She’s really supportive, and she helped me get my grades up,” Clare said. “She’s my favorite teacher I have ever had.” Fellow student Jessica Lund, 13, said she is also sad about not being able to visit Koester. “She’s the funniest teacher I know, and she helps a lot with it not feeling so stressful in the classroom,” Jessica said. Koester said she and her husband, Jeff, have lots of plans after her retirement, including visiting their son, who lives in Colorado, and their daughter, who teaches at Del Oro High School. “I have a list of historical books I would like to read,” she said. “I have a list of trips we are going to take, and I think my yard will finally look like I want it to look.” Koester said she has mixed feelings about retiring, and wants to leave a message with the community and her students. “It’s kind of a bitter sweet feeling, and I’m hoping I’m leaving a positive legacy and I made a positive difference in the lives of people, my students, faculty members,” she said. “I’m kind of excited, but I’m sad. I would just like to thank the community for giving me this opportunity to work with their students, and to tell my students, ‘Don’t stop learning.’” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------ E.V. Cain Charter Middle School retirees • Kathy Koester, eighth grade American history, began working at E.V. Cain in 1971 • Jerry Fonda, computers/eighth grade science, began working at E.V. Cain in 1978 “I have enjoyed all the people I have gotten a chance to teach,” Fonda said. “I was lucky enough to have the best background for teaching, especially with middle school … that made teaching fun, interesting, challenging, different every year. I started as an aide back when I was 19 years old and have been in education every since. I’m going to miss the kids. I have had the best subjects, science and technology combination together has just been wonderful.” • Sylvia Haverberg, eighth grade American history, began working at E.V. Cain in 1987 • Carol Thomas, special education, began working at E.V. Cain in 2001 “I have enjoyed everything,” Thomas said. “The staff in particular is what keeps me here, and the cooperations with other people. It’s just a very wonderful environment to teach in. I have enjoyed the students, and the parents and the community feeling I get here.”