Joshua Schipper
Video/Digital Content/Graphic Design Producer
May 9, 2023 // Diocese

St. Joseph Hessen Cassel Teacher Retires After 45 Years

Joshua Schipper
Video/Digital Content/Graphic Design Producer

Carol Sarasien always knew that she wanted to teach. In 1978, that vocational dream became a reality at St. Joseph School in Hessen Cassel.

“I always wanted to be a teacher, and I actually would play school at home in the garage and have the neighbor kids for my students. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Now, nearly 45 years since her first day of class, Sarasien will retire.

St. Joseph Hessen Cassel Teacher Carol Sarasien educates her students in her last year of full-time teaching as she plans to retire after 45-years of teaching students in Catholic education. — Photos by Joshua Schipper

Just a few months before she started teaching, she married her husband, and this month they will celebrate
their 45th anniversary. Unfortunately, shifts in the local economy during the early 1980s saw the couple move to Kingsport, Tennessee, where Serasien took a job at another Catholic school, St. Dominic. While in Tennessee, the Sarasiens welcomed two daughters, Amanda and Kimberly.

“We decided we had to move back to Fort Wayne because we missed both of our families very much.”

After a brief time as a substitute teacher in local Catholic schools, Sarasien came back as a full-time teacher in 1989.

Of course, the profession of an educator has seen drastic changes throughout the last 45 years. A noticeable change, Sarasien said, has been in the use of technology.

“When I came back in ‘89, we had started using Apple IIe computers. We had a principal when I came back, Sister Judas Plumb … she was very helpful getting the computers started in this school.”

She also recalled that playgrounds underwent a drastic increase in student safety during her time as a teacher.

Sarasien noted that over the years she has seen an increase in recordkeeping and more rigorous curriculum planning to meet standards, and recommends that new teachers and those discerning the vocation find a mentor to help them with this process.

“Be outgoing and get a group of teachers to be your people — your team — and discuss how to get things done on those requirements. And then you can focus on your creative ways of teaching children. And don’t shy away from that, because that’s what will give you the joy that you are looking for. If you’re just stuck with the standards and the lessons, page-by-page or whatever, you are not going to have as much fun as if you look at the lessons presented to you and say, ‘Oh, we could do this project, we could do this activity, they would love that. And we would have so much fun.’”

A fulfilling aspect of any teacher’s vocation to sow seeds in the minds of young people is witnessing the fruits of their labor.

“I’ve seen some of them become teachers. I’ve seen them become business owners. I’ve seen them bring their children back to our school. We have a lot of that. This year, I have 20 students, and I would say, at least 15 of them, I taught their parents.

Sarasien realized the wide impact that her vocation as a teacher had on the community during a recent Christmas program at the school. The principal, Jeanine Skordos, asked the guests and parents in the audience whom Sarasien had taught to stand up.

“And it was amazing. I just about started crying because there were so many people there.”

Sarasien even taught St. Joseph’s current 2nd-grade teacher, Angela Whitman, in her first class in 1978.

Her Catholic faith, of course, has been at the center of it all. “It helps me get through the hard times. And there’s that in everyone’s life and everyone’s family. It has been my anchor. And I have sung at the funerals of both of my parents. I’ve sung at funerals of aunts and uncles. I recently sang at St. Charles at a choir member’s funeral. We experience life together as a community.”

While Sarasien belongs to St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Fort Wayne, she says that she has been at St. Joseph for so long that it’s “like my other parish family.”

After retiring, Sarasien plans to travel with her husband. She and her sister also plan to do a “European Viking cruise” in Germany, part of her ancestral homeland.

“I also would like to just travel around the country and visit relatives, just see some sights that I haven’t seen yet because I’ve been teaching all these years. I actually haven’t been to Washington D.C. or the Grand Canyon and places like that. I would love to see those things.”

Between travels, she still plans to have a presence in the classroom as a substitute teacher.

“I just want to say that this school and all the teachers are — the principal Mrs. Skordos, Father Kummer, and many of the parents and grandparents — these people are the best. I’ve had many successes with students over the years, but they would not have happened without those people in my life. And so they are as much a part of my celebration as what I’ve done — they are definitely part of that.”

All are invited to an open house for Sarasien on Sunday, May 21, from 9 a.m. to noon at St. Joseph School in Hessen Cassel.

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