Giving To Concordia

Supply Teachers

In 1943, the national Baby Boom created a demand for teachers so great that Concordia undergraduate students were often placed into emergency service before their degrees were complete. During its first five years alone, the Supply Teacher program provided more than 445 undergraduates to schools across the country and continued to fill classroom needs for nearly 20 years. 

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of Concordia University Chicago, the Office of Alumni Relations is partnering with Robert Koepper '58 to capture alumni anecdotes about their experiences. This project attempts to bring recognition of the Supply Teacher program’s many contributions to the future teachers of Concordia.

What was the most positive impact supply teaching had on your career?

“My student interaction taught me that if I expected them to do their best work then I should also expect that of myself when I returned for my final year at Concordia.” 

– Paul Steinbach ’61, Supply Teacher at Trinity Lutheran School Muskegon, MI

“The experience allowed me to deal with real people, real problems, and watch how the Holy Spirit works in people’s lives. (Supply Teaching) could have chased me away, but it didn’t.”

– David Adam ’61, Supply Teacher at St. John Lutheran School Baldwin, IL

“Actually, (Supply Teaching) was life changing. I loved those 18 students (9 boys, 9 girls), and I am still in touch with some of them. They were so beautiful and trusting. At first I felt like a phony. They were looking to me, and I put up a good front but on the inside was rather unsure of my skills. I grew with the class. I was blest to receive much more than I gave. It became a mutual trust where the children did not want to disappoint me, and I did not want to let them down.”

– Paul Howe ’63, MA ’72, Supply Teacher atZion Lutheran School Belleville, IL

Please share a memorable experience from your supply teaching year.

"I visited an all African American Synodical Conference Lutheran School in New Orleans. There were 236 student in 4 classrooms. The primary teacher had 85 students in grades 1 & 2. When I asked the teacher how she could handle that many, she said this was her smallest class in 25 years of teaching. The decorum and respect those students had for their teacher and one another was amazing."

- Marcus Pankow '58, MA '66, Supply Teacher at Our Savior Lutheran School New Orleans, LA

“Congregation members were warm and welcoming, ready to help in any way they could. In addition, they worked very hard at ‘getting me together’ with a single male teacher (a Seward graduate) on the faculty. The PTL decided that year to put on a play casting us opposite each other, even though we didn’t even try out for the parts.”

Carol (Martensen) Niebergall ’62, Supply Teacher at Trinity Lutheran School Chicago, IL

“Playing the organ for church services gave me the opportunity to use my talents acquired from many hours of ‘mandatory’ practice in Kretzmann Hall. At that time, the only hymnal in use in the Synod was TLD and every hymn had an Amen at its end. In service playing class, we were taught that not every hymn requires an Amen to be sung. Following that standard, I played the Amen only for a prayer hymn or a doxological stanza, and I omitted them otherwise. However, the young pastor there said, ‘If the hymnal has an Amen, you will play it.’ I didn’t. He thought we should talk nicely about this over dinner. We’ll be married 49 years this July!”

– Ruth (Reinking) Otten ’65, Supply Teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School Brookfield, IL

Please share a memorable experience from your supply teaching year.

“I learned later that three of my 25 students entered into full-time church work. One 8th grade girl became a Lutheran teacher and served in Texas for 35 years. Her 2nd grade brother became a teacher and served later as D.C.E. In 1989, when I retired as a D.C.E., he was called as my successor and served our congregation for 10 years till he retired.”

– Edward Bernthal ’46, MA ’63, Supply Teacher at Zion-Immanuel Lutheran School Annandale, MN

“The day it snowed, it was the first snow any of the children had experienced. The snow was only on the ground for a short period of time! Of course, they weren’t dressed for the cold, but we went outside anyway, even with bare feet, to experience the SNOW!”

– Shirley (Masch) Pankow ’51, Supply Teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School Houston, TX

“Teachers needed to buy and decorate the Christmas tree for the classroom. One of the pupils asked if 1949 was an even or odd year. He wanted to know because (his family) only had a Christmas tree at home on even years. I knew what I was going to do with my Christmas tree. A member agreed to meet me at school at 5. When we arrived, my tree was gone, and there was a trail of tinsel out to the alley.

We went back to where I bought the tree and told them the story. He gave me another tree. The clerk across the street provided a couple strings of light and some ornaments. I was back to the church by 6, in time for the Christmas Eve service. Children asked, ‘What happened to our tree?’ I could honestly say I didn’t know. I can still see the pale face of that little boy, ‘Mr. Helge, we have a Christmas tree.’”

– Erich Helge ’52, Supply Teacher at Emmaus Lutheran School Fort Wayne, IN

“My first day of teaching nothing was more worrisome to me than the fact I had to play the piano for devotions since, despite three years of lessons, I was a disaster as a piano player. I spent a week practicing the easiest hymn in the hymn book (one with no sharps or flats) and managed to play it with a minimum of mistakes.

However two little 2nd grade boys came up to my desk after school and said to me, ‘Mr. Heinze, we think we should play for devotions from now on,’ I realized I hadn’t done as well as I thought. I was forever grateful to Jeff and Ron, because I never again had to play for class devotion. I praise God that I am still in contact with them after 58 years. Both are very accomplished musicians and composers and have had distinguished careers of Christian service in their chosen professions.”

– Rudolph (Ralph) Heinze ’56, Supply Teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School Des Plaines, IL

“The school was held in two rooms of the church basement. No indoor or outdoor recreation facilities were available. I had basketball practice by moving desks out of the way and used a waste can on the teacher’s desk as an improvised goal.”

– John Brandt ’59, Supply Teacher at St. John’s Lutheran School New Boston, MI

“I had gotten quite a stack of papers to look at which I quickly did and wrote ‘OK’ on them. I had the principal’s son in my fourth grade. One morning he came early, so I asked him to hand out the papers. Not only did he hand them out, but he said each child’s name and uttered the ‘OK’ I had put on them. Finally, he said, ‘Boy, Mr. Chandler, you sure gave a lot of ‘OK’s’.”

– Fred Chandler ’59, Supply Teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School Marshfield, WI

“I loved having the students hear the Bible lessons. One student was asked to use the spelling word ‘heaven’ in a sentence. He wrote, ‘We are heaven a party!’”

– Sharon (Brandt) Willweber ’59, Supply Teacher at Bethlehem Lutheran School Richmond, VA

“All 36 students brought a pet to school on pet day.”

– Delores Beck ’62, Supply Teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School Wentzville, MO

“After eating a hamburger and coke for almost every supper at a local diner, one of my sixth graders saved his allowance and gave me $11.40 the last day of school to go out for steak – a treasured note about how God had used me to help his faith life grow.”

– Alan Geuder ’61, MA ’67, Supply Teacher at Bethlehem Lutheran School Fort Wayne, IN

“Since there were only three of us, faculty meetings were informal coffee chats in the principal’s office. One major decision I made involved playground supervision. Mrs. Ruehs told me that in previous years the faculty had simply sent the children out to play while the teachers gathered for coffee. I insisted that at least one teacher had to be outside supervising any time the children were on the playground.

I still feel that this was a good policy even though we had a broken arm, a broken wrist, and two injuries requiring stitches. Mrs. Ruehs jokingly informed me at the end of the year that they had had zero major injuries when the children were left to their own devices, and they would probably drop my policy the following year.”

– Lee Steffen ’61, MA ’67, Supply Teacher at St. John Lutheran School Ionia, MI

“Occasionally, I would walk up the hill to the school to work in the evening. It was dark on evening, and I was still at my desk. I heard a noise, looked up and saw a leg pushing through a window and another leg in the nest window. My heart was pounding until the full bodies emerged – two boys from the youth group who thought they’d have some fun!”\

– Lynette (Grube) Esslinger ’64, Supply Teacher at Trinity Lutheran School West Seneca, NY

What was the most challenging experience of your supply teaching year?

“My placement was my home congregation, and I eventually realized I had a common ancestor with 20 of 22 children in the whole student body. My brother was a 7th grader.”

– Karen (Zander) Boorom ’67, Supply Teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran School Waverly, IA

“For the first half of the school year I was 18 years old. I had completed one year of college plus a summer. There were 33 students in a one room school. All eight grades were represented. Two of the students were 14 years old. I had not completed any methods courses. That was a daunting assignment.”

– Frederick Kramer ’49, Supply Teacher at St. John School Lutheran Atwater, MN

“I had also been assigned as organist of the congregation but could hardly play the piano. After a convincing performance, I was able to escape the situation.”

– Eugene Fiedler ’58, MA ’66, Supply Teacher at St. John’s Lutheran School Port Hope, MI

What was the most positive impact supply teaching had on your career? “35, 5th graders”
What was the most challenging experience of your supply teaching year? “35, 5th graders”

– Dennis Dressler ’69, MA ’71, Supply Teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran School Skokie, IL 

Were You one of These Willing Servants?

We invite all former Supply Teachers to complete and return the following questionnaire. 

Supply Teacher Survey (PDF, 240K)

Supply Teacher Survey (WORD, 370K)

 Please return via e-mail to or by mail to:

Paige Craig, Director of Alumni Relations
Concordia University Chicago
7400 Augusta Street
River Forest, IL 60305

Questions? Please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Alumni Relations at or toll free at 888-258-6773.