Wohlwend's Kathy Rausch Remembered as Caring, Dedicated Teacher
Kathy Rausch may have only taught second grade at Wohlwend Elementary for a short time, but her impact on students, teachers and the community was deep.
As a brand new teacher at Wohlwend Elementary, Kathy Rausch turned her second grade classroom into a black-and-white polka dot spot. Her room has everything: polka dot pillows, polka dot homework bins, polka dot lockers, even polka dot paper clips.
Now, at the start of the spring semester, there’s only one thing missing:
Rausch died Jan. 9, and while this was her first year on Wohlwend’s official staff, her legacy lives on in the students, teachers, parents and the community members who remember the bright, dedicated teacher.
“She put her heart into her room, poured her heart into it, and they (her students) knew that,” said Katie Kalbfleisch, a second grade teacher at Wohlwend. “Reminders are all around them. Everywhere they look in there, they’re remembering her and the time they spent with her. They loved coming to her room every day. They were excited every single day.”
The day after Rausch died, Principal Dave Meschke and a counselor spent the morning with her students in her polka dotted room.
“It was very hard on them,” Meschke said. “When we told the kids, to see their emotion, it was heartbreaking. They were so sad.”
The children wrote letters, cards and messages to their teacher, choosing pens she’d used herself from her polka dot-covered desk. They even turned the photos on her desk so they could look at her face all day long.
“We were talking about ways to remember her, (and) the one thing the kids asked was if they could have one of her black and white paper clips,” Meschke said. “So they use them in their planners now to mark the days.”
Teachers described Rausch as a happy, smiling, dependable, helpful, caring, hard working and organized teacher, mother and wife.
“She’s one of those people who you know for five minutes and you feel like you’ve known her forever,” said Kris Praprotnik, who also teaches second grade at Wohlwend and worked closely with Rausch. “She had a very caring and compassionate nature about her. She was like a mom to them.”
Rausch was the type of person who’d listen to your problems after a hard day, even if she were stressed out herself, said fellow first-year teacher Anna McGuire. They went through new teacher orientation together, and McGuire said she’d learned to depend on Rausch as both a co-worker and a friend.
“I leaned on her pretty hard,” McGuire said. “I felt incredibly sad because I’d only known her a few months but it felt like I’d lost a really good friend.”
After Rausch’s death, Mehlville School District schools reached out to their Wohlwend brothers and sisters in support. Trautwein Elementary School teachers subbed for Wohlwend teachers so they could go to the funeral service. Hagemann Elementary held “Wohlwend Day,” wearing the school’s colors and collecting money for gift cards for the family. Several schools made breakfasts and lunches for the school.
Now, as the true loss sets in and the healing begins, the school is looking for ways to move forward without leaving behind Rausch’s memory.
Rausch keeps watch over her old classroom from her classroom’s computer nook, where students asked to post her picture on a black-and-white polka dot bulliten board for the rest of the year.
Just the other day, Kalbfleisch said she stumbled across one of Rausch’s famous polka dot paper clips on a stack of copies
“I thought, ‘I’m going to keep this,’ Kalbfleisch said. “It reminds me of her. She was a true blessing.”