Long time St. John LaLande teacher retires

Lois Hildman

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

BLUE SPRINGS — Let’s play a Math game. What does 30 years of teaching add up to? Lois Hildman, second grade teacher at St. John LaLande School, figured it out: 1,000 students, 400 faculty members, nine principals and 557,250 papers and tests graded. Of course, estimation is not an exact science, but she thinks she’s pretty close.

Lois has “lots of good memories” of her years teaching at St. John LaLande School. She began teaching at the parish school in 1987, and will retire June 1. Thirty years at the same school and, looking back, she loved it all.

She grew up in northeast Iowa, attending Catholic grade and high schools. “I was taught by Sisters,” she recalled, “and they, and our parish priest, had a big influence on my vocation as a teacher.”

She majored in elementary education at the University of Northern Iowa. After graduating with a degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis on Reading Education, Lois started teaching at Sacred Heart grade school in suburban Waterloo. The school followed an individual guided education program, where students were placed in multi-age classrooms depending on their abilities. For example, a third grader who excelled in reading but was challenged in Math, would be placed in a classroom with students of all ages who had similar reading abilities, and in a slower-paced Math class with multi-aged students.

She taught in Iowa for 12 years. Then the 1987 recession affected many people in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, especially those who worked in the big equipment industry. Lois’s husband Paul was one of those forced to find another job. He found employment as a convenience store manager in Oak Grove, Mo., so the couple packed up their household and their three children and moved more than 250 miles southwest.

Lois learned that St. John LaLande School was looking for a fourth-grade teacher, and quickly applied. She wanted to teach in a Catholic school since she enjoyed the faith-based curriculum and atmosphere, and Blue Springs was only about 15 minutes from Oak Grove.

She was excited to get the job, and was impressed with the faculty and the parental involvement in both their children’s’ education and school activities. “Our parents are so dedicated,” she said, “you’d think they worked for the school! All of us here are very much a family unit!”
Lois taught fourth grade for five years, then switched to second grade, and stayed.

Teaching second grade has been an inspiration, a labor of love and fun — “They make me smile a lot!” she said. She added that they are so innocent, so pure, so literal and so precious. “When we were learning the 10 Commandments,” she explained, “I got to the sixth commandment, ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.’ What they heard and repeated to me was ‘Thou Shalt Not Commit the Elderly.’ My favorite, however, was when the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills were given to the third through eighth grades. My second graders panicked. ‘We don’t know a thing about Iowa!’ They were so worried, until I told them they weren’t taking the test, which by the way, is about basic skills not about Iowa!”
Her smile lit the room. “They make teaching a joy,” Lois said. “They have good memories and they’re like sponges, soaking up knowledge, wanting to learn!”

When asked about some of her own memories, Lois said, “We’ve had a few families with four or five kids, who sent them all through St. John LaLande, and now those kids are sending their own children to St. John’s. Some alumni have returned to teach here. We must be doing something right!”

She said that two of her former students realized they were being called by God — Andrew Kleine to the priesthood (now in his fourth year as a seminarian) and Sister Mary Jacinta (Lisa) Gordon to the religious life as a School Sister of Christ the King; currently a student at Benedictine College.

“I have been comfortable here at St. John LaLande,” she said. “The comfort comes with working with people who have the same beliefs and the same focus. It’s not how much money you make or what kind of clothes you wear. Who you are inside should shine, and that happens here.”

Lois didn’t quit learning when she graduated from college. In the mid-2000s, she heard about an opportunity available through the Diocese of Kanas City-St. Joseph, that enabled about 40 teachers to get their Master’s degree. In 2008, she graduated from Webster University-Kansas City with a Master of Science in Education, with an emphasis in teaching Science and Mathematics. “It was a very nice gift,” she recalled. “The course work was professional, and gave us good, important information, to help us teach better.”

St. John LaLande offers a lot of professional development workshops, she said. “I love working with people who are here for the kids; it makes a big difference.”

Technology is the way of the future, Lois said. “Ann Wright, our principal, is very supportive of technology in the classroom. She wants every student to have their own Chromebook for doing assignments and learning how to do PowerPoint presentations. We’ve kept our class sizes small to be able to provide one-to-one-assistance, teaching and enrichment. I think it’s great!“

As she closes out her final year of teaching at St. John LaLande, she reflected on a total of 42 years teaching, all at Catholic grade schools. She has been offered a post at a public school, but declined because, “I can’t imagine not being able to talk about God in my classroom. God is part of everything we do. Lifelines, what we used to call virtues, are very important for a good life — how we treat others, showing tolerance and living with others.”

She looks forward to a flexible schedule, a slower pace. She hopes to do some volunteering. And with family in Iowa and her and Paul’s four grandchildren in Denver, they plan to pay lots of visits.

Her official retirement is June 1, she said. “I will miss everyone here, especially the kids. The kids are the best part of this job! I’ve been very lucky to have been part of this faculty. St. John LaLande has been a very good fit for me.”

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  • Traci Daffer Martin

    Was blessed to be in Ms. Hildman’s fourth grade class almost twenty-five years ago! Her retirement is a huge loss for St. John’s, but I wish her all the best in retirement!

Thursday
May 25, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph