Longtime St. John the Baptist School educators ready for the next chapter

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | June 15, 2016

Marotz and Katers both retire after four decades in Catholic education

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]HOWARD — A pair of educators with a combined 80 years of Catholic school experience said goodbye to students for the last time on June 3. St. John the Baptist School principal Vicki Marotz and physical education/health teacher Wendy Katers are retiring. Each served in Catholic education for 40 years. Katers’ final day was June 6. Marotz will close her career at the school on June 30.

Vicki Marotz, left, administrator/teacher at St. John the Baptist School in Howard, and Wendy Katers, PE/health teacher, are among the 31 Catholic school personnel retiring this year. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Vicki Marotz, left, administrator/teacher at St. John the Baptist School in Howard, and Wendy Katers, PE/health teacher, are among the 31 Catholic school personnel retiring this year. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

A great deal has changed over the past four decades. They remember when the stoplights on the corner of Glendale Avenue and Cardinal Lane were stop signs and there were no roundabouts in the village. When both joined the faculty, the parish was served by Oblate priests and Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross were teaching in a number of classrooms. There was no air conditioning in the school and the building featured one long hallway.

Marotz taught a year at what is now St. Rose-St. Mary School in Clintonville prior to finding her longtime home at St. John the Baptist.

“I made the move to Howard when my sister was a member of the parish,” she said. “There was an opening for an aid. I wanted to come back to the Green Bay area.”

Marotz, who is originally from Pulaski, applied for the position, but, instead, received an offer to teach fifth grade after one of the teachers at the school resigned due to her husband’s health issues. Marotz taught grades four through eight at the school for 31 years. The last eight years, she has served as principal.

“I thought I would be here five years and then be home when starting a family,” she said. “Kyle (her eldest son) was able to come to school here. It was the best of both worlds. I was off on the same vacations. I thought, ‘I can make this work.’ I had my second child (Jay). It was a beautiful match. They were in this environment with me. The career worked along with raising my sons. They grew up here. I grew up here.”

When the principal position was vacant, Marotz took on the task of ordering supplies for the school in the summer months. She was then invited to interview for the administrator job.

“I said, ‘Are you serious? Sure, what do I have to lose?’ I apparently did well,” she said. “It was a tough transition. It’s difficult to go to leading and supervising people I had worked with for so many years. We worked it out. … We had an understanding that they would communicate any issues. I would communicate with them honestly. It’s worked out so well. I think it’s because of the culture we have here.

“I have never forgotten what it’s like to be a teacher,” she added. “That was some good advice that I received. It’s a wonderful place to work. Because I knew the culture, I think I was able to hire and recruit people who met that criteria. I knew who would align with our values and our vision. That gave me great joy, hiring and recruiting, and working with the kids.”

Katers started at St. John the Baptist a half year prior to Marotz. A recent college graduate at the time, she sought a position near her hometown, Green Bay.

“I grew up through a public school system. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into,” she said. “Once I was here and saw what good Catholic education is, I had no problem staying here. I enjoyed what I did. I guess this was my path.”

Katers recalls the challenges of teaching physical education for several years in a basement space that served as the cafeteria at the time.

“It was a small room with low ceilings,” she explained. “At that time, our class sizes were pretty big. I remember that they had gym once a week. Ron Baeten (teacher) would come down because we had 40 kids. We always had 30 to 40 kids in one homeroom.”

“She broke a lot of lights,” said Marotz with a laugh.

“Not too many,” replied Katers.

A gymnasium was built as part of a new addition in 1995. Katers, who also served as athletic director at the school for 20 years, previously had to find gym space at nearby public schools for practices and games. The gymnasium includes a stage so, in addition to athletics, the space serves as an activity center for both the school and the parish.

Other changes at the school over their years include the addition of pre-school and advancements in technology. Currently, students in grades five through eight use Chromebooks. Marotz said that the plan is for the younger grades to use iPads.

The need for marketing has increased over the years, added Marotz. The school has around 250 students. She credits GRACE (Green Bay Area Catholic Education) and O’Connor Connective of De Pere for their support in this area.

“Our enrollment isn’t increasing just because our parish is growing,” she said. “We’ve got to go out and really market this place. I’ve learned a lot from them. … Because of the GRACE system, we have more resources we can share. We are just stronger because we can work together. Catholic education really has a great future.”

Both educators take fond memories with them. Katers said that she enjoyed seeing graduates of the school achieve athletic success in high school.

“We even get invited to their reunions,” she said. “This spring I was invited to a class reunion. You learn that you meant something to them later in life.”

Many second-generation students have walked through the school’s doors.

“One of the second graders (recently) said to me, ‘You had my mom for gym class,’” said Katers. “The first generation saw the value in the education and, therefore, wanted their kids to be here.”

The commitment to service and Catholic identity stand out for Marotz.

“Service is really emphasized,” she said. “That’s ingrained in our kids. I hope that never goes away. My hope for St. John’s is the Catholic identity stays at the forefront.”

Katers plans to take some time for relaxation before working part-time and exploring volunteer opportunities.

Marotz wants to work less and eventually relocate to Phoenix where her son, Kyle, and his family live.

“I want to find a job where I can work less and stress less,” she said. “I want to be active. I’m done with the desk and management piece. I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s time for a new adventure.”

The two educators are thankful to be going out together.

“I couldn’t end with a better person,” said Marotz.

“Same here,” said Katers.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]

31 Catholic school leaders, with 907 years of service,

retiring from diocesan schools this year

ALLOUEZ — This year, 31 Catholic school teachers, administrators and support staff are retiring from years of service. According to the diocesan Department of Education, those who are retiring have put in a combined 907 years of service. Below is a list of retiring Catholic school personnel.

  • Sr. Maureen Bomaster, St. Francis of Assisi, Manitowoc, teacher, 51 years
  • Sr. Barbara Mathe, St. Francis of Assisi, Manitowoc, teacher and counselor, 50 years
  • Sr. Lois Levandowski, St. Thomas More, Green Bay, teacher, 46 years
  • Linda Bender, St. Francis of Assisi, Manitowoc, teacher and principal, 45 years
  • Suzanne Kuffel, St. John Bosco, Sturgeon Bay, teacher, 45 years
  • Donna Fahrenkrug, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Schools, Appleton, teacher and assistant principal, 42 years
  • Diane Noreika, St. Matthew and St Philip, Green Bay, teacher, 40 years
  • Wendy Katers, St. John the Baptist, Howard, PE/health teacher, 40 years
  • Vicki Marotz, St. John the Baptist, Howard, teacher and administrator, 40 years
  • Susan Krings, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Schools, Appleton, teacher and instructional aide, 37 years
  • Jeanne Craanen, Holy Cross School, Bay Settlement, teacher, 35 years
  • Susan Gant, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Schools, Appleton, teacher, 33 years
  • John Netzer, Lourdes Academy High School, Oshkosh, social studies teacher, 33 years
  • Paul Trader, Lourdes Academy High School, Oshkosh, biology teacher, 31 years
  • Barb Klika, St. Bernard School, Green Bay, administrative assistant/school secretary, 28 years
  • Carol Wetenkamp, St. Mary/ St. Michael/ St. Joseph, Alverno, Clarks Mills/Cato, remedial math, 26 years
  • Kaye Jacobs, Holy Trinity, Casco, teacher, 31; principal, 25 years
  • Mary Mueller, Lourdes Academy High School and Middle School, Oshkosh, science/ LMS, 24 years
  • Carol Waniger, St. Mary St. Michael, Clarks Mills/Cato, cook, 24 years
  • Judy Mayo, Lourdes Academy High School and Middle School religion teacher, Oshkosh, 22 years
  • Mary Koehler, St. Bernard, Green Bay, teacher, 22 years
  • Kathleen Mader, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Schools, Appleton, teacher, 21 years
  • John Cleaver, Lourdes Academy High School, Oshkosh, business teacher, 21 years
  • Carol Ulrich, Most Precious Blood, New London, teacher aide/principal, 20 years
  • Deborah Ries, St. Bernard, Green Bay, teacher, 18 years
  • Donna Wilkinson, St. Bernard School, Green Bay, music teacher, 18 years
  • Patricia Shafer, St. Bernard, Green Bay, learning support specialist, 16 years
  • Dr. Patricia Dwyer-Hallquist, Lourdes Academy High School chemistry/physics teacher, Oshkosh, 16 years
  • Joe VanDyke, St. Bernard School, Green Bay, custodian, 15 years
  • James Nabberfeld, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Schools, Appleton, Maintenance/Custodian, 11 years
  • Peter Mayhew, St. Thomas Aquinas, Marinette/Peshtigo, Principal, six years


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