By Anne Hierholzer Lang & Holly Holladay
Lois Kappler never wanted to be a teacher. In fact, as a young girl growing up in Edwardsville, Illinois, she was never particularly challenged in school and found it just an expected routine.
But fast-forward a few decades, and Kappler is now a staunch advocate for the possibilities provided by education. In fact, she is living proof that it’s never too late to go back to school.
“I graduated from Mississippi University for Women at age 40 with my teaching degree,” Kappler said. “I was 50 when I decided to go back to complete my master’s degree. Since then, I have often encouraged fellow teachers and others to go back to school….There’s no such thing as ‘too old.’”
After completing high school early, Kappler went straight into the workforce, where she enjoyed working and honing her “people skills.” After her two children came along, Kappler found herself increasingly fascinated as she watched her daughter and son learn to read. She was a regular volunteer in the classroom and became intrigued with how students learned and how teachers could make that process fun.
Kappler and her family moved often when her children were young, following her husband's job. While enrolling her children in different schools, she was twice surprised to be offered secretary jobs, which provided her a behind-the-scenes look at school operations. Through these positions, her eyes were opened to what education had to offer to her and to students.
“At first, I was worried about working with students, but soon found I loved it,” Kappler noted. “I loved supporting the teachers, too. When I occasionally subbed in the classroom, I knew this was more than a job, and I began to realize how passionate I was about education.” Finally, Kappler had to admit to herself that she’d caught the teaching bug, and it was time to do something about it.
“When we moved to Mississippi, no secretary jobs were open,” Kappler said. “So the timing was perfect to start taking classes at Mississippi University for Women, and I finished my degree in three years.” Kappler then went on to a series of teaching and leadership positions in the Columbus School District. As her responsibilities grew, she became determined to earn additional credentials that would allow her to progress in her career track. She earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and just recently completed a PhD at Mississippi State University in that field, as well.
In her current role as a project manager at the RCU overseeing professional development activities, Kappler is perfectly positioned to encourage her fellow educators to pursue their own career and educational goals. Her work to help Mississippi craft new administrator and educator evaluations is a particular point of pride for Kappler and provided the inspiration for her PhD dissertation. Kappler stresses the importance of using a professional-growth system as a map for success for teachers, as well as the need to set professional goals. “Student development is always a key priority for educators and administrators, but we need to pay attention to our teachers’ professional development, as well,” Kappler said.
Her passion and enthusiasm for education cannot go unnoticed: “Education is incredibly powerful,” said Kappler. “It is an investment in yourself that no one can take away from you.”