The classroom in which retiring Linwood Public School principal Joe Lepold first started teaching was not equipped with a black board, chalk, or erasers. Instead, it had a vast array of buttons and switches.
“I was a flying instructor, and that was my first experience teaching,” said Lepold, who will retire at the end of this month, when he’ll be succeeded by Geoff Suderman-Gladwell.
Out of high school, Lepold, who was raised on a farm in the Niagara Penninsula, took a liking to flying small single- and multi-engine planes.
Little did he know at the time, that teaching would be his true calling. But now, years later, with the clear vision of hindsight, it all seems to make sense how things played out.
“I showed up at the teacher’s college because I wanted to learn how to teach in case I wanted to start up my own school in flying … lo’ and behold, one of the students that I was teaching to fly was the panel master who then taught me how to teach at the college,” Lepold recounted.
The rest, one might say, is history: Lepold, who had studied geography at Wilfrid Laurier University and education at teacher’s college at the University of Western Ontario, eventually obtained a master’s degree in education from Niagara University.
“After a while I just found that I preferred the teaching versus the flying,” he explained. “I’ve loved my 36 years in education.”
In his 18 years as a teacher, he taught at three schools in the region. Before spending the past 10 years at Linwood, he was the principal at Three Bridges School and Park Manor.
“Right now I still have a lot of mixed emotion – I still look forward to coming to school every day,” said Lepold of his pending retirement.
“I really enjoyed being a part of the Linwood school community … it’s the best kept secret in Waterloo county – we have wonderful students here, they’re, for the most part, very well behaved. We have a wonderful Linwood school community; parents are very supportive, we have an awful lot of volunteers within the building on any given day.”
A resident of Waterloo, Lepold will certainly miss the rural setting of Linwood.
“That’s part of the charm and beauty of the north here is having our students grow up with and being exposed to the rich culture that we have in the area.”
Although Lepold was eligible for retirement three years ago, he felt he had some work to finish. He wanted to see through the completion of two extensions to the school, as well as a collaboration with the province on the Ontario Focused Intervention program, which focuses on schools and students that need attention and additional resources.
The results have really paid off, said Lepold, as this year the school was shortlisted for the Garfield Weston Awards for excellence in education in the category of Determination in Academic Achievement from the Fraser Institute.
“This recognizes the team effort that our staff put in with some of the ministry and the board people over the past year and the results of their efforts.”
Lepold is looking forward to spending more time with his family and friends when retirement rolls around. His spare time will likely include boating and relaxing at the family cottage in Georgian Bay, cruising the Great Lakes with friends, visiting Florida, and likely a lot of photography. Lepold, a director with the Elmira Sugar Kings, is convinced he will have more time to polish his photography skills at the Elmira Arena and in cottage country.
Even in retirement, there will still be plenty of contact with the teaching world: Lepold’s wife is a retired and part-time teacher, his daughter just recently started teaching, and his son, who won a Cherrey Cup with the Kings last year, is studying environment and business, and is thinking about the field.
Who knows, maybe Lepold will eventually get back into it too.
“If there’s an opportunity to do something on a part-time basis. I certainly would look at that as a possibility.”