March 14, 2017 – West Bend, WI – When you think about K4 at Cabrini, you probably think of Mrs. Pat Kraemer. And for good reason. She was our very first K4 teacher, back in 1993. She was given a budget, planned the curriculum, bought all the equipment needed for the year, picked out the tables and tiny chairs the students would use, and the toys and games they would play with up in the Ed Center building. It was a lot of fun, “kind of like Christmas.” And she’s been teaching K4 ever since.
But you might also associate Mrs. Kraemer with K5 at Cabrini. Because a decade earlier, she was our very first K5 teacher, back in 1982. Where the Teachers’ Lounge is now is where Kindergarten began. In fact, that’s why Pat was hired 35 years ago, to start our K5 program. And so she was given a budget, and she planned the curriculum, bought all the equipment needed for the year, picked out the tables and tiny chairs the students would use, and the toys and games they would play with. There was even a little loft for the kids.
Mrs. Carol Bearss was the principal then. She decided it was time to start offering Kindergarten at Cabrini because she was concerned that sometimes people would start their kids in Kindergarten at the public school, and then miss out on giving their kids a Catholic education when they decided to stay.
At the time she interviewed here, Pat was teaching Kindergarten in Milwaukee. She was originally from West Bend (she’s a graduate of Holy Angels) and when she learned there was a position opening up at Cabrini, she jumped at the chance to be back in West Bend, and in a Catholic school. She was hired in June, and had the summer to prepare for the first year.
She taught K5 until her oldest daughter was ready for K5. It was lucky timing that the school wanted to start K4 then, because she thought it might be difficult for her daughter Claire to be in her Kindergarten class, and have to share her mom with all the other kids.
Of course, that problem popped up again a few years later when the two younger ones were old enough for K4. But it turned out not to be a problem after all. The girls took it in stride, and decided to call her Mom at home, and Mrs. Kraemer at school. And sometimes they had fun with it. Pat remembers one day, when one of her daughters approached her in class and said, “Mrs. Kraemer, how do you like my pants? My mom bought them for me.” Another time at home, one of her daughters said, “Wow, Mom! Mrs. Kraemer wore that same outfit today!”
One change Pat has noticed over her tenure is the pace of the curriculum. When she started teaching, K5 was just half a day. Back then, kids went to Kindergarten to learn the basics. They’d learn their ABC’s and how to print. Everything has been stepped up a grade, and now kids are learning those things in K4. Things have gotten more academic as the years have passed, not just at Cabrini, but in most schools. It’s amazing to Pat to think about what the future will hold for our young students, and to think that for many of them, the jobs they’ll be doing in the future may not have even been invented yet. So a strong foundation is important.
Although there have been a lot of changes through the years, Pat says that she loves that in the most important ways, the school is much the same. There’s always been a strong bond between the families and the school. Parents have always been willing to help out, and are happy to be very involved in their children’s school. There’s always been a strong foundation in faith. And there’s always been a strong sense of community here.