Friends and Neighbors: The Staehrs feel blessed to call Kimball home

 

Tonia Copeland

Keith and Cynthe Staehr have found their home in Kimball, an unlikely spot considering their first drive west from Kearney in 1971.

Most graduates have been asked the question at least once: Who is your favorite teacher and why?

The names of many Kimball teachers have filled in that blank because of their fun teaching style, the important lessons they have in common, the esteem they share with their students and the quality of time spent with students.

Keith and Cynthe Staehr have impacted Kimball students during their teaching and coaching careers at the high school.

Keith grew up in York and met Cynthe – a fellow classmate – while attending Kearney State Teacher's College.

Their first teaching assignments after graduating what would later become University of Nebraska Kearney, were in North Loup-Scotia schools.

"It might be ironic," Cynthe said. "We had come to Kimball for a wedding, and we drove Highway 30 with no air conditioning. My husband said he would never come to Kimball, Nebraska, again."

It was the following spring – in 1972 – that Keith was accepted a position as Kimball's head football coach.

"We have been here ever since and I think any person can make a town or situation what it can be, either positive or negative," Cynthe said. "We have always felt this is our home."

Keith also taught physical education and social studies. Cynthe began her career in Bushnell, teaching chorus and band.

"I wasn't going to teach," Cynthe said. "But Mr. Hensley thought they needed me to teach."

After four years, Cynthe transitioned to Kimball to teach music in grades six through 12 for the next 24 years.

"Kimball always had the reputation of having very good music programs and so it was a challenge to try to carry on that tradition of having good music program," Cynthe continued. "We have always had good kids singing and good support from the community. That has been an A-1 thing for us – the kids and the people."

Hard work and dedication was something Keith found in spades in Kimball.

"I think it is pretty simple: the hard work of the kids, the dedication to football was real instrumental for me," Keith said. "I don't think I've ever been driven to win football games. I always thought if the kids did their best, worked hard and played hard I would be happy. And 99 percent of the time that happened."


Keith said he was most thankful to the kids, parents, administration and the community for the support they provided during his coaching and teaching careers, assistance that he never found lacking.

He was also blessed with dedicated assistant coaches in Jerry Beguin and Frank Calise, Keith said.

"Mr. Hoffman started them in junior high with good fundamentals, and I told him many times that he was probably more instrumental in our wins and losses than I was," Keith said. "The background he gave those kids, and such a nice, gentle soul to really instill the desire to win in those kids and to do it with a laid back, positive attitude."

Cynthe added that the consistency the students, including their three boys, experienced in all aspects was really important.

"Jon was about one-and-a-half when we moved here," she said. "I was not a stay-at-home mom at all, and I had the other two boys when I was teaching at Bushnell. I think they all benefited from the community, the kids and having a successful experience at school. They have reaped those benefits and gone on to do very well."

Cynthe retired in 2000 for a couple of years, but found herself right back in Kimball schools – this time in the elementary's library.

"It has been a God-send, and allowed me to venture out and learn new things, be with elementary children, learn about books and reading, and encourage them. It has been wonderful," Cynthe said.

Keith now works at the golf course in the summer, but his favorite job these days is hunting duck and geese in the winter.

"Today, they tell me I was mean. I did demand that they work hard at practices," Keith said. "It prepared them to play hard for four quarters."

Both Keith and Cynthe look forward to the opportunities to connect with friends who have moved on, as they often visit with those that have remained in Kimball.

"We have had very close relationships with people in Kimball, almost like family. That has been an important aspect for why we have lived here for such a long time," Cynthe added.

Cynthe, whose father was a band director, will lead the band and the choir during the All-Class Reunion this weekend. It's an honor she feels deeply about as she looks forward to working with graduates again.

"No one can replace Mr. McNees in the hearts and minds of his students," Cynthe said. "When Harry retired, I took his place for two years. That was one of the bigger challenges of my entire life trying to do the band up to the quality that he expected along with the choir."

Through each challenge and with each success the Staehr's have achieved faith has been a defining force, one that has led them and kept them going every day.

"You have to, everyday, think about what your purpose is and it is to live your life in glory to God," Cynthe said. "To fulfill his purposes, to love others and glorify him in everything you do. We have tried to convey that to the people in Kimball and to our kids that we taught."

"We have just been blessed to be here," Keith said.

 

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