For 44 of its 166 years of existence, Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School has boasted the services of junior high science teacher Chris Haberl.
That is no longer the case, as Haberl retired at the end of the school year as the longest-serving teacher in school history, working there for about 26 percent of its lifespan.
“I guess I’ve been kind of like a fixture,” Haberl noted with a chuckle.
The 1967 SPPS graduate started working at the school when he did his student teaching there in 1975.
He wanted to work in a high school, but decided to explore what teaching in a junior high school was like.
“I just fell in with junior high kids right away,” the 66-year-old remembered. “I loved it.”
Haberl’s wife, Judy, was already working at the school. She retired last year after also staying there for over 40 years.
“It’s really been a blessing in disguise that my wife was working in the same building so we always had the same schedule,” Haberl said. “If there was something going on at school, like the introduction of a new communication system, we always had the same information.”
Throughout his time at the school, Haberl has taught primarily science classes, with those taking up about 95 percent of his workload.
He also taught the eighth grade religion class for 36 years, led the confirmation process and occasionally taught math and reading.
Haberl said he has enjoyed his career, which is why he did not retire sooner.
“I just really feel lucky that for 44 years I worked in a job that I just absolutely loved,” he reflected. “It’s my dream job.”
Part of the reason Haberl said he felt that way was because he also learned from his students.
“I’ve definitely learned patience from the kids,” he said. “I’ve had kids in the past, where because of family situations or special needs, I’ve really needed to be patient.”
Another lesson he gleaned from his pupils was creativity, as he sometimes needed to alter his teaching to help certain kids.
Haberl said one of the best things about being a teacher was when he would get through to those or any student.
“That’s one of the most rewarding things: when you see something click in a kid’s mind or a parent comes up and says ‘my child just loves your class’ or ‘my child was hoping to be in your homeroom,’” he said. “To me, that’s just as important as getting a paycheck.”
Haberl learned from more than his junior high students, as he allowed younger classes to visit his science lab for miniature field trips.
“I want to be a resource to all the kids in the school,” he said. “Teachers know if they need some materials for an activity, be it something with a video or activity, they’re more than welcome to come in here. I like that because you build rapport with the littler kids, and they look forward to coming into your class.”
While he tried to help teachers in the lower grades in that way, Haberl credited them with laying the foundations for his students to have success.
“Anybody that ever tells somebody that they were a self-made man or something like that, that’s a bunch of nonsense,” he said. “You’re always a compilation of all the people you come in contact with. I really have to hand it to our primary teachers… I couldn’t do half of what I do without those guys doing that footwork.”
He said that is one of the things he’ll miss the most about working at SPPCS.
“I’ll really miss the contact with the kids,” Haberl said. “I’ll miss working with my fellow teachers.”
He will still be around, though, as he plans to have weekly meetings with his replacement to help her get acclimated to the new role. He also said he would be “on-call” if she needs help.
“I don’t want to leave the school high and dry, and I want her to have a nice transition,” he said. “She’ll do well.”
When he is not doing that, Haberl plans to spend time with his five grandchildren, go bow-hunting, go fly fishing and substitute teach.