A love for the Lord and children

Samuel Lutheran teacher retiring after 24-year career

Photo by Jenny Kirk Samuel Lutheran School pre-K teacher Lois Zander introduces a preschool song during a recent spring concert. Zander is retiring at the end of the school year, after teaching for 24 years — 13 of which were at Samuel Lutheran School. A retirement celebration in her honor is being held this Sunday.

MARSHALL — After a long and satisfying career in education — including the last 13 years teaching pre-K at Samuel Lutheran School — Lois Zander is retiring.

A retirement open house honoring Zander is scheduled from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday at the school, with a program starting at 3 p.m.

“There are several things that make my job worthwhile: when the children say they can’t wait to be in heaven with Jesus, when they master something with which they have been struggling — that moment when they can finally do it — their excitement for learning new things about the world and when they spontaneously tell someone about what we have been learning in school,” Zander said.

Pam Ellingson, former teacher at Samuel Lutheran School, said Zander has been a very dedicated, compassionate and talented teacher.

“She exposes students to many of the wonders in God’s creation,” Ellingson said. “More importantly, she shows her love for her Lord and Savior in everything she does. Her students love to learn about Jesus, their ABCs and numbers as well as in many other areas. I will miss her at Samuel Lutheran School and wish her God’s blessings.”

Zander graduated from Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm in 1977. She taught at Christian day schools in Detroit, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Fort Worth, Texas, before getting married and taking a break from teaching. In 2001, she was called to once again teach grades K-8 at a Christian day school in Balaton.

A few years later, Zander began teaching preschool at Samuel Lutheran School. In all, Zander has been an educator for 24 years.

“She came in as our other early childhood teacher was leaving,” Samuel Lutheran School Principal John Festerling said. “Our program was smaller then, mostly half days, but Mrs. Zander has been instrumental in growing the program into the successful program it is today.”

Currently, Samuel Lutheran School offers full days for preschoolers as well as before and after school care.

“We took the steps to be licensed a few years ago and she has continued as the director and lead teacher through the transition,” Festerling said. “We now have a number of assistant teachers and aides to help with the program.”

Zander said the children who attend Samuel Lutheran receive an education strong in academics, but also in social and emotional development.

“We can also offer them the spiritual aspect that you cannot get in public school,” she said. “Children here get the opportunity to hear about their Savior every day and learn how to live as a child in God’s family. Are they perfect just because they go here? Certainly not, but this environment gives us the opportunity to provide correction from God’s word on how he wants them to live their lives in gratefulness for what he has done for them.”

Zander noted that in some ways, it is more difficult to meet the needs of students today than when she first started teaching.

“Society has changed so much,” Zander said. “There are so many family distractions and there is the effect of alcohol and drug use of mothers on their unborn children that follows the child for the rest of his or her life and impacts their ability to learn. I have always tried to teach for the mastery of concepts for each individual child — extending and enriching for some while reviewing concepts for others. I just want each child to reach his or her potential.”

One of the things Zander will miss the most, she said, is the kids and their childlike perspective on the world.

“I will miss seeing them develop, grow and of course, the hugs and laughter,” she said.

In addition to teaching at Samuel Lutheran School, Zander also coordinated the youth group, directed choirs, played organ and taught Sunday School. In the years in which she was not teaching, she volunteered at public and Lutheran schools.

Always passionate about serving others, Zander was hesitant about having a retirement celebration in her honor.

“When I said I was going to retire, I never anticipated a retirement celebration,” Zander said. “Those kind of things have never been what I am about. I just want to help spread the news of Christ to everyone and to help parents raise their children to know their Savior. It is not at all about me.”

Zander enjoys gardening, decorating cakes, reading, walking and spending time with her husband, Mark, and their five children: Timothy, Sarah, Jonathan, Katie and Rebekah. In the near future, Mark and Lois Zander will be moving to the Jordan area.

“My son, Jonathan, and his wife recently had a baby and I will be taking care of him during the day,” Lois Zander said. “I would also like to get back to cooking and gardening.”