CHILTON — Approximately 12 miles separate Chilton Area Catholic School and Divine Savior School in Kiel, so it would make sense for the new principals at both campuses to build a working relationship. No problem for Samantha Meyers and Martha Holst. They more than have it covered.
Meyers, the principal at Chilton Area Catholic School, is the daughter of Holst, who takes over this fall as principal at Divine Savior. Surprisingly, both were not planning on becoming principals this year.
Holst will begin her 37th year as an educator. Divine Savior was formed in 2007 from the unification of Holy Rosary School, New Holstein, and SS. Peter and Paul, Kiel.
“I started out with Holy Rosary when we were two (separate schools),” she explained. “When we combined and became part of Divine Savior, I was still on the New Holstein campus, because we had two campuses. (New Holstein) was the middle school campus. When we decided on one campus in Kiel, I came along. The last several years I’ve been teaching math, grade two all the way through algebra. I’ve taught all over the board over the last 36 years.”
When Kerry Sievert decided to retire as principal at Divine Savior, he encouraged Holst to apply for the position.
“I wasn’t necessarily planning on being a principal at this point in my life,” she said. “Kerry talked me into it. He said, ‘I think you would be really good at this. You know everybody. You know how everything runs. It will make for a much smoother transition.’ After much prayer, we decided this is the thing I should do.”
Meyers taught English at Chilton High School for the last eight years. Five years ago, she enrolled in a master’s program at the encouragement of her principal.
“I told him, ‘I don’t want to be a principal. I don’t want to do what you do. It looks hard,’” she said. “I did it anyway. I enjoyed (the master’s program) more than I thought I would. I wasn’t super actively looking for a principal job. I was sort of waiting for the right one to come along.”
Meyers had no intention of relocating for a principal position. She grew up in Chilton, as did her husband, Matt, and both of their families still live there.
“When Liz (Rollmann, former principal) announced her retirement, I decided, after some prayer, that I was going to apply for it,” said Meyers. “I was offered the job the second to last week of the school year.”
Meyers was familiar with Chilton Area Catholic School. She and Matt are alums, sixth-grade graduates of the school. They are also school parents.
“We decided to send our kids here, so my daughter (Myla) has been going to school here for two years,” she said. “I really like the education she has been receiving.
“Some days she is excited, and other days she is not so excited,” added Meyers with a laugh when describing Myla’s feelings about soon having her mom as her principal.
Meyers and Holst are not the first principals in the family. They both said hat distinction belongs to an uncle, Roger Bunnell, who makes it clear that they are following in his footsteps. Meyers initially did not plan on becoming an educator.
“I had people telling me I should be a teacher my whole life,” she said. “My mom was a teacher, one of my grandmas was a teacher, the other one probably would have become a teacher if she could have. I thought to myself, ‘No, I don’t want to be in the family business. I want to do something else.’”
Meyers pursued a degree in marketing from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She was a semester away from graduating when she decided on a new path.
“I had an internship and hated it,” she said. “I came home crying every day. I was miserable. It was not what I wanted to do.”
She changed her major to secondary English education.
“I was very excited when she called me,” said Holst. “I thought, ‘Finally.’ I was very supportive of whatever she wanted to do, but you look at your child. I just didn’t see (a marketing career) in her.”
Meyers is the eldest of Holst’s two children. Martha and her husband of 37 years, Dan, have a son, Nick, who also lives in Chilton, and five grandchildren, ranging in age from 1½ to 7 ½. They’ve been lifelong members of Chilton area parishes.
“I’m originally from Jericho. I grew up in Holy Trinity out there,” said Holst. “I got married and moved to Chilton. All of us live here, so we get to see each other quite often. Both of my kids married people from Chilton. There is something about Chilton in our family.”
Holst will still teach at Divine Savior, including algebra and fifth- and sixth-grade religion.
“I’m most excited to be working with the kids and to lead them down the footsteps of Christ,” she said. “The biggest challenge is making sure I have enough staff. The day-to-day stuff I think is going to be fun. I’m very excited about that.”
Near the end of last school year, the students and faculty gathered in the gym. Sievert asked if they wanted to meet their new principal. Everyone looked at the door before he said, “Right here she is” and pointed at Holst.
“They cheered. It was a really loud cheer,” said Holst. “It really made me feel good.”
Meyers, who taught a year at Xavier High School in Appleton before moving to Chilton High School, will not be teaching in her new position. She said that she will miss the classroom.
“I will be stepping in (the classrooms) all the time because I will miss that day-to-day interaction,” she said. “I’m going to do a lot of the lunch duties, supervision, greeting the kids in the morning. I’m excited for the kids to come back.”
She also looks forward to sharing her faith.
“I’m excited to go to Mass, to be able to pray with the kids and talk about God and Jesus every day,” she said.
Mom and daughter talk each day, which will likely continue, to compare notes from their new positions. Both schools will welcome students for the first day of classes on Sept. 1.
“We will lean on each other,” said Holst. “We will get it done together. What one doesn’t know, hopefully, the other one does.”