Two familiar faces will be missing from Gibault Catholic High School when classes resume this fall. But the spirit and dedication of longtime teachers Sister Elaine Freund and Sister Marcia Kruse will benefit students and teachers alike far beyond their retirement.
“I’ve been an educator in five different states and for 14 years, and I don’t think I’ve met a more gifted teacher than Sister Elaine,” said Gibault principal Russ Hart.
Sister Elaine taught English, honors English, dual credit English and religion at the school for 32 years. In that time, she was involved with virtually every club and organization “except varsity basketball and cheerleading,” she said with a laugh.
But her primary sphere of influence was in the classroom.
“Kids had so much respect for her, they wanted to do well,” Hart said. “She had the touch with students who were not so motivated. She’s just very gifted at so many intangibles.”
It was that ability to reach students with a lasting influence that is her legacy.
“I get people that will call, that will talk to me, who I don’t know, who say, ‘Sister Elaine taught me how to write,’” Hart said.
“I still view Sister Elaine as one of the most influential teachers I’ve ever had,” former student Andrea Dobek said. “(She is) definitely my unofficial mentor.”
As much as she has treasured her time at Gibault, Sister Elaine said she always believed she would know when it was time to retire.
“I really wanted to retire while I still really liked high school kids. And the other thing was I wanted to retire while I still had the energy to try to do something new,” Sister Elaine said.
She will now work part time for her religious community, Blood of the Adorers of Christ, as a member of their communications team, and hopes to continue her involvement at Gibault on a limited basis, assisting with Scholastic Bowl, which she led for 26 years.
Sister Marcia spent 14.5 years at Gibault teaching Spanish, dual credit Spanish, religion and Latin, and leading the International Club.
“She might be the most energetic person I know regardless of age.” Hart said. “When all the rest of us are tired, she ran circles around us.”
Sister Marcia spent 20 years living in Latin America before coming to Gibault, and brought with her a dedication to social justice.
“It was of great importance to her to make the kids aware of the world outside Waterloo,” Hart said.
“My (goal) was always to make the kids aware of the world around them and have a heart for the poor,” Sister Marcia said. “It was important for them to become knowledgeable, responsible and caring citizens of the world, motivated by God’s own love of the universe and all its inhabitants.”
Whether it was through the International Club she led, or in her everyday lessons, one way she emphasized a global outlook was by promoting fair trade products that helped small farmers in Latin America and around the world. By selling their coffee, tea and hot chocolate, students raised money they used to sponsor two brothers in Bolivia. In 2008, she led a group of eight students and six adults on a service trip to Bolivia, where they had the opportunity to meet the brothers they sponsored.
“It was very emotional for the students,” she remembered.
And like Sister Elaine, she said that although she will miss teaching at Gibault, she also knew the time was right to retire.
“It’s time to move on and do something new until we can’t do anything anymore,” Sister Marcia said.
She will also be working for the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, translating documents and books from English into Spanish for members of the order living in Latin America. She also will have the opportunity to travel, with a trip to Bolivia rapidly approaching.
The sisters were honored at a retirement open house on Sunday, where former students, parents and colleagues stopped by through-out the day to wish them well and thank them for their contributions to Gibault and its students.
“They won’t be teaching anymore, but something tells me we haven’t seen the last of them,” Hart said.