Rochelle News-Leader | Papke retires from RMS after 30 years as workshop teacher
ROCHELLE — Mark Papke’s mantra as a shop teacher at Rochelle Middle School when speaking to students was “plan your work, work your plan.”
Papke retired earlier this year after 30 years with RMS. He got into teaching because he loves helping others and showing them how a process works. He likes to see students’ eyes light up when they learn something. He wanted to teach kids how to present the best possible project when they bring it home to their moms and dads.
“I loved seeing that light bulb go off and showing them how to use tools and how to do it step by step,” Papke said. “I loved giving the students an idea and showing them the process. I think I had an impact on people’s lives. I had a couple who said, ‘Now I know how to build things. Thanks. Nobody ever taught me before.'”
In Papke’s workshop class, sixth graders learned drawing and made projects for tin cans and birdhouses. Seventh graders worked with plastics and made can projects and next-level birdhouses. Eighth graders worked with wood, learned about mass production, and again did tin can projects.
“It was my dream job and I interviewed in 1992 and got it,” Papke said. “The children loved making birdhouses. They would take them home and I would see parents at the grocery store and they would tell me they loved it. We made planes, boats and tractors. All sorts of things. I helped with the intramurals and after school HUB program. I was a head wrestling coach for a few years. I did the range.”
Papke grew up in Rochelle and moved to town when he was in third grade. He loved being able to come back to town and teach where he grew up. He enjoys living and working in a smaller, tight-knit community.
“Here in Rochelle, I went to school with the grandparents, I taught their children and now I teach the grandchildren of people I went to school with,” Papke said. . “You have a lot of great memories. I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Thank you for teaching my kid. They really enjoyed your lesson.”
After college and before working at RMS, Papke taught shop at a West Virginia high school for a time and won the PTA Founders Day Award in February 1989. He also taught in Brookfield, Illinois thereafter. . Early in his time at RMS, he was included in the fifth edition of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in 1998.
A few years ago, Papke had health problems and was unable to teach for a while before returning. He could have retired then, but he wanted to leave on a good note.
“I didn’t want to leave a bitter taste,” Papke said. “I just wanted to have a good last year and make everyone happy. I wanted to give students the chance to do more projects and have the best opportunity to learn and have a good experience with the store.
Papke called it “difficult” to leave RMS on the last day, due to his passion for teaching and the fact that the store will be used for the school’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program at from this fall.
In retirement, Papke plans to spend time with his children: Bryce, Dylan, Gwendolyn and Troy. He will also enjoy his hobbies including gardening, fishing, camping and of course woodworking and crafts.
In Papke’s shop class, students had the chance to step back from the typical school structure and learn how to use instruments such as power tools, handsaws, hammers and nails. to create something. Just like their parents and grandparents did.
“And then they get satisfaction from what they’ve done and they can take it home,” Papke said. “In other classes they have worksheets and things like that and some get tired of it. In shop they pick a project and create it. It’s more challenging for them because they’ve created something and are responsible for its appearance.