by Beth Stauffer

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On Sunday, January 27th, 2013, over 200 friends, family members, colleagues, and students attended a celebration at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (Gar Creek) to honor Miss Pat James 40th year of teaching young children; for 27 of those years, Miss James has served at Central Lutheran School in New Haven as a kindergarten teacher.  Miss James was honored during both worship services at St. Paul’s on Sunday morning, with a celebratory banquet following the second service.

Miss Pat James

During the banquet, a slideshow featuring pictures of Miss James and her classes over the years was shown for guests.  Chris Werling, the Central Lutheran School Board Chairman, emceed the event honoring Miss James.  Mr. Werling began the afternoon’s festivities by reading several letters from former students and co-workers of Miss James about their impressions and recollections of her forty years of ministry.  He also shared his own thoughts about the “many sides of Miss James”; particularly, how the beloved kindergarten teacher was usually very soft spoken and gentle in the classroom, but as the guests at the banquet saw in a video clip presented by Mr. Werling, she has a fun and boisterous streak as well.

Next, longtime friend and former colleague Liz Schendel gave a moving recollection of the times she spent working together at Central Lutheran School with Miss James, and of their mutual involvement in the L.W.M.L. ministry.  Schendel called Miss James the “ultimate professional,” and went on to say that “she is spirit-filled.  She lives her life as a song of praise.  Pat, may God bless your day today, tomorrow, and every day.”

Another friend and former colleague, Diane Moellering, shared with the guests a humorous and touching tribute to her friend, Pat James.  She shared anecdotes about the many travels she and Miss James have enjoyed together, and gave a revealing look at Miss James’ very full life outside of her classroom at Central Lutheran School.

Miss James’ former student Logan Salzbrenner impressed all of the guests at Sunday’s banquet when she presented an original acrostic poem she wrote using the beginning letters in Miss James’ name to tell guests a little about her former kindergarten teacher.  Miss Salzbrenner’s poise and well-spoken manner was certainly a credit to her former teacher, and to all of her other teachers at Central Lutheran.

Principal Kevin Creutz next shared how Miss James’ ministry at Central extends far beyond her classroom to the school’s parents and her colleagues every day.  He shared how much Miss James’ had personally influenced his own work at Central during his time there as principal before presenting Miss James with a gift on behalf of the school board and staff of Central Lutheran School.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the afternoon was the Central Lutheran School staff’s delightful presentation of the skit “A Mid-School Year Nightmare,” which featured several of the popular characters from Miss James kindergarten classroom:  Larry the Leprechaun, the Gingerbread Man, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Plymouth Rock pilgrims.

Following the uproarious skit, Mr. Werling provided time for anyone who wanted to speak about Miss James’ influence to do so.  Several people came forward to share, including family members, parents of former students, and friends of Miss James.

The afternoon ended with a few words from the lady of honor herself, Miss Pat James.  “You know, I never intended to be a teacher,” she said as she stepped up to the podium on Sunday afternoon, her face bright with a smile, adding, “I always thought I would be a social worker or a deaconess.  Then my Mom sent me off to Ann Arbor.  That was the beginning of a ministry that our Lord knew, but I didn’t know.  He knew me, like He knows each one of us.”

“Today was such a blessing.  It was good to see everyone.  When you are touching lives individually, it doesn’t seem like you are doing much, but when you see it all in front of you and start thinking back and reflecting, and it’s a ‘Wow’ moment,” said Miss James at the conclusion of the afternoon.  “I’m very blessed and thankful.”

POSTED: 01/29/13 at 7:03 am. FILED UNDER: Church, News, Schools