Principal associate looks back on five decades of Catholic teaching

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Linda Keppel (in her 2004 yearbook photo at the American Martyrs School) says she maintained strong bonds with her fellow educators at each of the schools where she worked. (Photo courtesy of Linda Keppel)

DOUGLASTON — When Linda Keppel walked into her first class at St. Stanislaus School in Greenpoint as the new seventh-grade math teacher in 1972, there were 52 students sitting there — a far cry from the 20 to 30 children who occupy a mid-size class these days.

“As we progressed through the years,” she said, recalling an educational journey that began five decades ago, “the classes got a little bit smaller.”

Keppel spent 40 years in education in the Brooklyn Diocese – first as a teacher for 31 years, then as an administrator for nine years. She is one of 15 directors who will be honored by Bishop Robert Brennan during the Saint John Neumann Day Mass and Reception at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston on May 27.

She is currently the Associate Principal of Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Douglaston, a position she has held since 2013. She enjoys helping and guiding teachers, especially young teachers.

Much has changed in Catholic schools in the half century since Keppel entered the profession. For example, technology in classrooms was almost non-existent in 1972, and many teachers and principals were nuns, not lay people.

Another difference between today and yesterday: most schools in the diocese were run by parishes years ago. Today, the majority are Catholic academies which are overseen by boards of trustees and are responsible for their own fundraising.

But some things stayed the same, Keppel said. “The attitude of the children is the same. They want to be educated and they want to learn, she explained.

Keppel wanted to be a teacher since she was in elementary school. When she was in fourth grade, her teacher asked her to tutor a new student who didn’t speak English well. “I helped her and taught her English and math,” she said.

At 16, she taught religious education. “I realized I had a gift for teaching,” she recalls.

Keppel knew where she wanted to give her gift.

“I always wanted to teach in a Catholic school. My faith is a big part of my life and I couldn’t imagine not sharing it in my workplace,” she added.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Molloy College and holds a master’s degree in religious education from Fordham University.

Keppel began his career in Saint-Stanislas and taught there for a year. In 1973, she moved to St. Rita’s School in East New York and stayed there for five years.

Looking back on her career, she sees how teaching has changed.

“When I started, seventh and eighth grade was more like today’s fifth and sixth grade curriculum. We really didn’t get into the upper level of algebra or geometry. was more rote learning,” Keppel recalls.

“Now it’s more about processing and logically thinking about a process so it’s not just, ‘Here are the steps. Don’t ask questions,'” she explained. is about solving concrete problems.

“I have always said that reading is important. If you can’t read, you can’t do math. If you don’t have this understanding, you won’t be able to understand any kind of problem.

The introduction of computers into the classroom was a welcome addition, she said, as it gave teachers another tool to use.

When Keppel got married and started a family, she took a 10-year hiatus from teaching to raise her three children.

She returned to teaching in the late 1980s and got a job at St. Mel’s School in Flushing, where she felt right at home. She was and is a parishioner of Saint-Mel Church and is active in parish life as a Eucharistic minister and reader. Additionally, she is a Dame Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, a Catholic fraternal organization.

Her time at St. Mel’s was memorable for another reason: She had her son Michael in her class for one year.

“It was funny because he never called my name when he raised his hand. He didn’t know what to call me! she recalled laughing. “The other kids in the class were whispering to me, ‘ Mrs. Keppel, your son raises his hand.

In 1992, she left to join the staff of the American Martyrs School in Bayside and worked there until the school closed in 2006. Then she returned to St. Mel’s and taught there until 2013 , at which time she transferred to Divine Wisdom in 2013 as an associate director.

Part of his job is to give advice to teachers. It’s a part she loves.

“I especially enjoy working with young teachers,” she says. “I can share my experience with them and listen to them talk about what is being taught in college now, which is very different from what I was in college years ago.”

Keppel also saw the impact of societal changes.

“Especially now you see a lot of grandparents coming to pick up kids because the parents are working. And the other thing is they drop them off at school at seven in the morning,” she said. “So some of these children go to school from seven in the morning until six in the evening. But parents have no choice. They have to work. »

Speaking of work, Keppel said she has no plans to retire. “I really like what I do. Working with children and teachers, I look forward to coming every day,” she said.

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