- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) - Cindy Nepper may have majored in English, but she doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the word retired.

Cindy “retired” in 1994 after more than 20 years as a teacher in the Wisconsin Rapids School District, garnering a state Teacher of the Year award in 1976. But the lure of the classroom is strong for Cindy, and a school year hasn’t gone by when she hasn’t worked as a substitute at least a day. Today, at 82 years old, she continues to guide students nearly every school day.

It’s a remarkable body of work in a profession that’s known to challenge people of any age, USA Today Network-Wisconsin (https://wrtnews.co/245Lh4R ) reported.

“I do love it, and I very seldom have a day that isn’t pleasant,” Nepper said on Thursday afternoon, after spending the bulk of the day working with math student in Lincoln High School. “Every day is different. … The kids, they respect me. Most of them like me. I’m a strict disciplinarian, and the goof-offs, well, they might not like me so much.”

Often, instead of finding her days draining, Nepper gets a boost from immersion into a world of youthful energy. “I always try to start out each day with a positive attitude, and I almost always keep it throughout the day.”

The Wisconsin Rapids School District has a website that allows its substitute teachers to log on and choose spots in which they can work the next day. Cindy doesn’t take advantage of that system. She gets to sleep early, 9 to 9:30 in the evening, and wakes up early, 5 or 5:30 in the morning, and awaits the call from the school district that usually comes. That means she can be a sub in any kind of class at any grade level and in any kind of subject. She’s taught gym classes, students with special needs and technical education classes.

It’s not a traditional retirement, but Nepper is used to living a life outside of the mainstream with her husband of 61 years, Don Nepper. Don was a paper science engineer and inventor for Consolidated Papers for more than 43 years. The couple had six children, and when the youngest went off to kindergarten, Don encouraged Cindy to move beyond her stay-at-home mom role and enroll in college.

“He said I had a very good mind, was very intelligent and so forth,” Cindy said. “He kept after me to do it, almost pushed me to do it. So I finally decided I would go and register.”

That was in late 1960s. “It was very unusual at the time,” Cindy said. But she found she loved going to school and thrived as an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She would end up graduating with degrees in English and Spanish. Later, she would earn a master’s degree in reading education, also from UW-Stevens Point

Cindy’s daughter, Lisa Crockett, 58, of Stevens Point, remembers that her mother was asked to start the first-ever reading program at Lincoln High School.

“At this time, my two older sisters were at Lincoln High School, and I was to start my first year in the fall as well,” Lisa said. “Can you imagine having your mom start at high school with you? I was not too thrilled.

“I was one of her first students in her first class,” Lisa said. “I did not get any special treatment. If anything, she may have been a bit tougher on me.”

Looking back, it was a good thing.

“I was so inspired by my mother,” Lisa said. She went on to teach herself, as did one of her brothers and a sister.

“I was heavily influenced by my mom as a teacher. Perhaps it was because or she was in my high school or because she was my own teacher. I know I witnessed her teaching with depth and joy throughout the years. I could tell that teaching wasn’t just a job to her,” Lisa said.

Don still encourages Cindy to use her mind and energy; he insists that she continue to substitute as long as possible.

It’s still more than a job to Cindy; she’s still learning herself. Here’s an example: As a little way to keep her mind sharp, she started playing a game with herself. She decided that she would attempt to learn all the students’ names in new classes that she enters. “I’m not so good at names, and this was thing like crosswords, or something,” Cindy said.

She found the students really, really liked it. That little thing, remember kids’ names, matters, she said.

Cindy said teaching is a more demanding job than it was when she was in the regular classroom. But she finds today’s teachers to be so prepared and good that it makes her job as a sub easy. That helps keep her going back, day after day.

“The teachers in our district are top notch, and they prepare. And then they see me in the hallway and thank me for subbing,” Cindy said. “That’s really nice.”


Information from: Daily Tribune Media, https://www.wisconsinrapidstribune.com

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