Patrick Hamilton teacher retires after 20 years

Published 7:29 am Tuesday, March 26, 2019

DOWAGIAC — At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, after over 20 years in her second career, third-grade teacher Kelly Knapp will retire from teaching at Patrick Hamilton Elementary.

The Dowagiac Board of Education recognized and approved Knapp’s retirement at their regular meeting on Monday, March 18. From collegiate physical education to her last third-grade classroom, Knapp has spent the previous two decades shaping young minds and preparing tomorrow’s citizens.

Knapp and her family have been rooted in Dowagiac for 38 years. After she and her husband sold their private business, Knapp followed in her mother’s educational footsteps and became an elementary school teacher. Prior to teaching at Dowagiac Union Schools, Knapp was a part-time physical education teacher at Southwestern Michigan College, but then spent 14 years as a second-grade teacher and spent the last five teaching third grade. Knapp came to teach in Dowagiac not only because it was her home community, but because her children were in the district. Although Dowagiac is the only K-12 district Knapp worked in, she has found satisfaction in the district’s ability to keep up with the ever-changing environment of public education.

“I think we’re always one step ahead of the game in our curriculum… we’re always one step ahead of where we need to be,” Knapp said.

In teaching in general, Knapp saw the daily value of working with young people in the classroom setting.

“I enjoyed working with the kids and seeing them learn and being excited about learning. There’s all kinds of different things that go on in a classroom, but watching them learn and enjoying what they do was a privilege,” she said.

Knapp’s simple philosophy of teaching is “build relationships and have fun,” a mantra that she found most appropriate for her work in an elementary setting. In her own classroom, she tried to create an atmosphere of safety and comfort. For her classes and those of any other teacher, balancing fun, relationship building and safety could be a challenge.

“It’s not easy to do, but it’s important,” she said.

The longevity of her teaching career taught Knapp not only to respect teachers for their work with adolescents, but also for their ability to change with the times and demands of the work.

“It’s a good field. It’s gotten harder, it really has. It’s hard for those young teachers coming in,” Knapp said. “Teachers not only have to teach academics, but they have to teach social behaviors too. It’s about building relationships with the kids. It’s not all about the academics.”

Knapp hopes her teaching legacy went beyond the mere academic component of the classroom to appreciate the endeavors of education and personal growth.

“I strive for the kids to enjoy learning and become productive citizens,” she said.

For the younger teachers in her field and district, Knapp has simple advice.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff because there’s a lot of small stuff going on,” Knapp said. “Just enjoy yourself and have fun. Don’t get bogged down with testing and new laws. It’s hard not to do that, so just do your best.”

In retirement, Knapp looks forward to spending time with her grandchildren, traveling and spending winters in warmer climates.