ALPENA - Art Hoch and Girder Nelson have served as teachers, role models and evangelists at Immanuel Lutheran School for more than three decades. They have aided in the development of hundreds of students who have moved through their classrooms and become teachers and devoted Christians themselves.
When the bell rings at the end of today - the last day of school before summer vacation - Hoch and Nelson will call it a career and retire after 33 and 40 years, respectively. Nelson said she was in elementary school when she decided she wanted to become a teacher, and one instructor in particular had an impact on her.
"I have wanted to be a teacher since third grade. I loved my first and second grade teacher, and I wanted to be just like her," Nelson said. "I knew I wanted to teach the younger children to help them learn and to experience the joy of seeing their progress from September to June. It is amazing to see them learn something and to see that light bulb go off in their head. It's wonderful."
Hoch made his decision to become a teacher in a similar way. He said he had a teacher who incorporated art in classroom lessons and was so impressed with the method that he decided to use it as well.
"I wasn't a real excited student and was kind of hard to motivate, but my fifth and sixth grade teacher, he made learning fun," Hoch said. "We do still have to do the work, but in a fun way. I decided I wanted to do that for other students and make learning enjoyable for kids, so they want to learn and not just because they have to."
Over the course of their careers, the two teachers have witnessed a change in education as a whole. Nelson said lessons she taught to first-graders in the 1970s she is now teaching to kindergartners and the curriculum has been bolstered. Hoch said advances in technology have offered new, time-saving opportunities for teachers in general.
"I used to take hours to make something like a crossword puzzle for the kids in class," Hoch said. "Now it takes you time to type the clues and the words, but man, it is just a matter of minutes and the computer can construct it. It is unreal in the time you can save now, compared to 30 years ago."
Both teachers said they will continue to live locally and serve the school and the church after they retire.
"We are building a new house, so we are going to to get into that. We will be able to do some traveling to visit our grandchildren who live out of state," Nelson said. "I have volunteered to come and play for chapel once a month, so I will be around the school some. I will also be involved in the congregation with different activities, so I'll still be around. I am going to take a chance to sit back and see where the Lord wants to use me next."
Hoch said he won't be at the school every day, but intends to continue to work with the students. He said he would volunteer to work with students who may be struggling with their studies, or fill in as a substitute if needed.
"I'm going to continue to coach the underwater robotics team, and I told the school if we have students with special needs that have some more severe learning disabilities, I would be willing to come in an hour a day and tutor them," Hoch said. "I plan to be involved in subbing if they really need someone. I have certain things on the lunch menu, so when they serve them I'll stop by and eat lunch with the kids. I'm sure I want to retire, but I think it will give me more time to do things in ministry that I haven't had time to do. I can now choose the areas to serve and make a difference in other ways."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.