After more than four decades of educating children at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School in Waterloo, retired teacher Judy Haberl can reflect back on a meaningful and prosperous career.
“I’ve always enjoyed getting to know the children. They have so much energy, they just gave me energy just looking at them,” Haberl said.
Forty-four years ago, Haberl graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and found a teaching job at SPPCS. She knew on her first day that she had found her home.
“I started work at 20 right out of college,” she recalled. “I got married on a Friday and started the following Monday. I had an offer at a public school as well at the time.
“But I just knew I was a teacher meant to talk about God … I’ve never regretted my decision.”
Since then, Haberl has greatly impacted the school and the community through her creativity and compassion. One example of this is the SPPCS fifth grade rummage sale she started 34 years ago.
“I wanted to do a service project,” she said. “And during Catholic Schools Week, we were discussing the topic of children starving.
“I thought, ‘Oh this is so dreadful. What should we do about this?’” she recalled. “Well, it doesn’t do any good to make the kids feel guilty so you just have to do something about it. It was remarkable. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Over the years, close to $100,000 has been raised through the rummage sale. SPPCS principal Lisa Buchheit said Haberl will not soon be forgotten for this and other contributions to the school.
“It is amazing to think of all of the children’s lives that Mrs. Haberl has touched over her tenure with Ss. Peter & Paul,” Buchheit expressed. “We have truly been blessed by her loving and gentle ways.
“Judy has always served as a wonderful role model in her strong Catholic faith, which has been shared with students, staff, and parents … While Mrs. Haberl is starting the next chapter of her life, she will always be remembered as a part of SPPS.”
Haberl, 64, could see that many others shared Buchheit’s sentiments as she was honored with a special performance at the end of the school year.
According to Haberl, one of the teachers initiated the performance to recognize her for using her guitar skills at the school. The performance was based on a song Haberl wrote called “Thank You Jesus” for the children to sing during their first communion.
“Michelle Floerke had surprised me during my retirement party by changing the song to ‘Thank You Judy.’ She even changed the lyrics throughout the song to relate to my teaching experiences,” Haberl said. “It was very special.”
Also special to her was the fact that she was able to teach side by side with her husband, Chris, who has been at the school for 43 years. Haberl noted not many couples have that kind of opportunity.
Beyond that, the retiring teacher has a lot of treasured memories involving her students. She said some had gone on to become her colleagues at the school. Others became parents and later brought their children into Haberl’s classroom.
When thinking back to these different generations, Haberl pinpointed one story in particular when a student brought her joy in a difficult time.
“I was teaching second grade at the time, and I had developed a cold and Laryngitis. I felt awful,” she recalled. “That morning, I came in, and I said, ‘Boys and girls, I need your help because I can’t really talk.
“Well, one little boy, who was really active, popped right up and came to my desk and said, ‘Would you like a hug?’ I wanted to frame that moment. It was so cute. He didn’t know what to do but he wanted to help.”
While she continues to think back to these memories with fondness, Haberl confessed her time at SPPCS had to end some day.
“My body was telling me it was time. I just had a few health issues, nothing major,” she explained.
In retirement, Haberl plans to sleep, read, cook, visit with her grandkids in Michigan, and more. She will also continue to participate in other rummage sales in the community.
“I won’t be bored for a while,” she admitted.