Rempp looking to next chapter after 25 years at Hastings College

Teachers have the most incredible job. The future of the world walks through their doors — doctors and politicians, farmers and business people, bankers and truck drivers — and a teacher impacts each and every one.

By Tyler Mogilefsky ‘14, Activities Director at Doniphan-Trumbull Public School

So just imagine a teacher of teachers like Dr. Kathryn (Kass) Rempp, and how many lives she’s changed over the last 25 years through her work in the Teacher Education Department at Hastings College.

KassRempp 24w1
Dr. Kass Rempp hiking in the Black Hills in South Dakota. She and her husband Barry will have more time to hike there in the future since that’s where they’ll live after Kass retires.

“Our roots run deep, so we stay long,” Kass told me on a sunny day earlier this spring. We met in Hurley Mac 220, a place where so many of my educational experiences at Hastings College happened. I was caught with a unique blend of nostalgia, and an eye toward the future.

I thought back to my first year as a teacher in the fall of 2014. I was lost in trying to give every single kid what they needed, yet I felt like I was failing them. Teaching was not what I thought it was when I fell in love with it as a third grader. In my rose colored glasses world back then, my students had no problems at home, they could all read, they weren’t hungry and they just listened. That could not have been further from the truth.

And then, about halfway through that first semester I received a postcard at work. It was signed with words of encouragement from all of the education professors at Hastings College. Names such as Dr. Barbara Sunderman, Dr. Lisa Smith, Dr. Judy Hall, Doug Phelps and, of course, Kass.

Back in Hurly-Mac all these years later, and Kass was exactly as I remembered her: warm, welcoming and with the greatest 1,000-watt smile you have ever seen. And yet she was so much more: open, introspective and grateful.

“My career is a gift” is how Kass started our conversation, and certainly her story, intertwined with her husband, Barry, and daughter Grace ‘18, is full of the kind of community, relationship and experience that only a small, midwestern town can bring.

Kass herself grew up in a small town in eastern South Dakota, then graduated from Yankton College in 1981 before earning a Masters in Education at South Dakota State University in 1986 and her PhD there in 1997. Church affiliation was something that drew her to Hastings College, and Barry was called to lead First Congregational United Church of Christ at the same time that she was offered her position at the College. She joined the faculty at HC in 1999.

KassRempp 24w2
Rempp and her husband, Barry.

Prior to her time at HC, Kass served as an elementary teacher, an assistant principal and a professor of teacher education at Peru State College. Her life has been dedicated to the service of others, a fact she quickly dismisses and flips, instead saying that she has always been more humbled by the students she teaches.

Kass said she might not have immediately known when she enrolled in college that she was meant to be an educator, but her counselor did, reminding her she was always around children. Agreeing, she remembers always being present at summer camps as a counselor or a teacher at Sunday school and a babysitter. It was then that the lifetime in education was presented. To say she grabbed it by the horns is an understatement — just think of the number of lives that she’s impacted!

Teachers, administrators and school personnel across the state of Nebraska and all over the country have been influenced by Kass, and in turn those educators are making an impact on their own communities.

When asked if she could quantify her impact, there was a long pause, and an unexpected answer, but one I cherish because of the perspective: “In some ways, I think any human’s impact is infinite,” Kass said. “And if you remember that to a person, especially in education, the world would be a better place.”

KassRempp 24w3
Rempp and her Teacher Education colleagues: Jessica Allen-Pickett, Jill Beckenhauer, Rempp, Grant Bachman, Dr. Darci Karr and Margo Busboom in Hazelrigg Student Union.

The world of education is evolving, perhaps more in the past four years than in the previous four decades. The way that information is delivered to students has changed, as well as the information that is being taught. Through these changes, teachers still teach.

As a product of Hastings College, I can say I was prepared for what education looks like today. Mental health was always something that was stressed in the Teacher Education Department in my time there 10 years ago, and today those conversations about mental health are some of the most important conversations educators are having.

I am thankful for the program of study that Hastings provided to me, as I believe that it prepared me for success in my career.

When I thanked Kass for this, again she deflected, quoting Dr. Fred Condos, the department’s chair before her: ”It’s not the programs, it’s the people. I am proud of the program that we have, but I am more proud of the people that have had such an impact on me. The way in which this place has allowed them to grow together.”

Nearly every single person on the planet has a favorite teacher. Someone who believed in them, who brought learning to life and made it fun. Kass is no exception, remembering her fourth grade teacher, high school teachers who brought learning to life and professors she had in her time at the University of South Dakota who knew the science of what she was learning before it was mainstream.

It was at this point in our interview that Kass, the 2011 Faculty Achievement Award recipient, dropped another gem. “Teachers come into your life at different times, and they might not be a teacher in a formal setting, but they teach you something,” she said.

When I asked Kass who her favorite teacher was, she told me that there were far too many to count, but she is especially thankful for her time with her colleagues at Hastings College. Fred Condos, Barb Feezell, Will Locke, Jim Loch, Barbara Sunderman, Lisa Smith, Doug Phelps, Darci Karr, Jessica Allen-Pickett, Jill Beckenhauer and Grant Bachman are all educators Kass described as valuing high expectations, quality relationships and genuine experiences — traits that she herself has tried to emulate.

“Well Kass, what’s next?” I asked at the end of our time together. Chasing nieces, spending time exploring South Dakota, and enjoying time with her mother are ways that she plans to fill her time in retirement.

“It’s been a delight. It’s hard work. These last few weeks will be hard, bittersweet of course,” she said, “but I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

Share this post