This week St. Patrick School, which serves grades preschool to sixth grade, will close its doors for good after 126 years of classes, 126 years of stories.
"If these walls could only talk," Andree (Hugar) Sporer said of the years of stories she has experienced in her time at the school.
She and Paula (O'Polka) Klinger each have spent five decades dedicated to the school either as a student, a parent or a teacher to the hundreds of children who have passed through their classrooms.
Klinger sat surrounded by books in her combined second and third grade classroom, sorting as she recalled fondly a couple of students you wouldn't think would be at the top of list of memories. Two student's she had to fail and hold back to take her class again. She said she only held back a handful of students in her tenure, but two stand out. She beamed with pride as she described how they are both college graduates and very successful adults.
"One just wasn't emotionally ready to go on," she said. She attended both that student's high school and college graduations. The other student's mother told her later that if she hadn't held he son back he wouldn't be the person he is today. They both keep in contact with her today.
They have taught generations. One student who was to be enrolled next year is the grandchild of one of her former students, Klinger said.
Both credit Monseigneur John Snyder for helping them become teachers. "He was a wonderful man," Sporer said. He help her get through college and back into the classroom at St. Pat's.
Her first class had 29 second-graders and she had to teach everything from art to phys ed. "I got paid $50 every two weeks," she said. But she never really thought of it as work.
"When I'd leave home in the morning I never said I was going to work, I said I was going to school," Sporer said.
"I hear former students tell the same story all the time when they go on to [a public high school:] Did you go to St. Pat's?" Klinger said with a big smile on her face. She and Sporer said St. Pat's students stand out.
Both teachers recently were busy cleaning up their classrooms and finishing the lessons with their last St. Pat's students via computer conference call meetings. Sporer cleaned everything out fast, leaving a sad classroom of empty desks and empty walls as she sat near a window with her computers and a few family photographs. Klinger took a little longer and had piles separated in order to decide what needed to be kept, discarded or given away. She was thankful she had started the process a few years earlier when she started to think about retirement.
The school was saved by a fundraising campaign a year ago, but this year the Venango Region Catholic School, which also oversees Venango Catholic High School and St. Stephen Elementary School, decided to close St. Pat's for good.
None of the St. Pat's teachers know what next year holds. Sporer said she would she like to teach and Klinger said she's weighing that decision carefully.
Neither is 100 percent sure where they will be next year.
"Walk by faith, not by sight," Sporer said.
Any former students, teachers or friends of St. Pat's who wish to share a story please do. I'm especially interested in those stories that made Sporer blush and Klinger shake her head no as they agreed that what happened at St. Pat's stays at St. Pat's. Haha. Please share memories, photos anything. I'll be more than pleased to do a follow up story or two.