Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer
August 3, 2023 // Diocese

Mary Keefer Retires from Educational Leadership for the Second Time

Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer

Imagine what it would be like to love a profession so much that you couldn’t even recall the number of years you worked in that profession. For Mary Keefer, who retired as principal of St. John the Baptist School in Fort Wayne on Friday, June 30, her career in education has been nothing less than a “labor of love.”

Keefer believes that teaching requires a lot of a person, but it is very rewarding. She reflected, “Teachers need to be on for 25 students at 2:00, just as they are at 8:00, yet students and the teacher are tired.” Keefer also believes that the best part of teaching is the relationships developed with co-workers and staff.

Mary Keefer

She added that a career in education would not have been possible for her without the loving support of her husband, Steve.

Keefer’s teaching career began at the age of 21. She taught 2nd grade at Hoagland Elementary School before taking a year off when her daughter was born. Upon Keefer’s return to teaching, she taught 7th and 8th grade at St. John the Baptist in Fort Wayne for 10 years.

Bishop Luers High School as head of the Religion Department and Assistant Principal at Bellmont High School were Keefer’s next stops on her career journey. She served in each position for three years.

She returned to Bishop Luers High School as Principal for nearly 20 years before she would retire. Only four years into retirement though, God had other plans for Keefer. Father Andrew Budzinski, former Pastor of St. John the Baptist, asked her to come out of retirement to become the principal of the school. She told him that she would take the job for one year. She stayed for four years.

When asked why she retired, she said, “Technology got the best of me. It was time for someone younger with more energy to take over. Just when you’ve learned one platform, another one becomes current. Unless you do something every day, there is not enough time to learn the technology.”

Keefer believes that there is a fine line between technology and the teaching of children. St. John the Baptist uses technology for remediation of a skill and standardized testing. Game-playing is left at home.

When asked what brings her the most joy, she said, “The greatest joy is seeing a former student in public. The family and community in Catholic schools means friendships for a lifetime. I have been so fortunate to touch so many lives and their lives mine. So much goes into a career. I have learned far more than I taught because of the people that I have encountered.”

Her love of education allows her to naturally pay it forward. Maddie Strack, Laura Miller Sturm, Emily Saul VanFossen, Katie Osterholt Pleus, Pam Smith Lepley, Amy Connett Henry, and Kristyn Shank are former students of Keefer’s and they all now teach at St. John the Baptist. Her daughter currently teaches English at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. Her granddaughter is studying Secondary Education and English at Indiana University- Bloomington.

Maggie Javins was appointed Keefer’s successor. Javins recently served as a math department head at Bishop Luers High School.

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