By Ben Rodgers
Times Journal Staff
If anyone believes in the power a simple twist of fate can have it’s Lori Knoespel.
The Stockbridge math teacher hasn’t taken the traditional route to get to the classroom, but a series of events finally brought her to the job she’s always wanted.
“Everything in life happens for a reason,” she said. “It was a twist of fate, that’s what happened. When I was probably at my lowest Stockbridge came through.”
Originally from Door County, Knoespel was close to graduation at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, when life intervened and sent her to Texas to follow her first husband.
While there she discovered the four years of higher education in Wisconsin wouldn’t all transfer. What started at UW-Eau Clare as a double major in elementary and special education ended up as a bachelor’s in social work.
Family called her back to Door County to help at their business when she was starting to think about getting her Masters in education.
Knoespel eventually ended up in Chilton with no Masters and a desire to do what she has always wanted to – teach math.
That’s when she saw a sign advertising the need for substitute teachers in 2007.
“I got my substitute license and started subbing down here and that’s when they found out I was good at a couple of things,” she said.
With her business experience in Door County she filled in for family and consumer education. With her background in music she filled in for band and choir. To this day she still plays trumpet for the marching band when they need her and plays accompaniment for singers in solo and ensemble competitions.
Knoespel also coaches the dance team and keeps stats and scores for the softball team.
She eventually took a full-time job with the district as a library aide.
While in the library she developed a reading program for moms and their newborns. She also started helping students with their math, gradually helping up to 12 at a time during lunch.
Then one day in 2014 she got called into Superintendent Dave Moscinski’s office.
“I thought I was being fired, no. 1 because they pulled me into the office and said ‘we need to talk to you,’” Knoespel said.
What happened was the opposite.
“I thought this person may have a lot of untapped talent, untapped potential, potential in the area of mathematics,” Moscinski said.
Knoespel enrolled in a program through CESA 7 that addresses the need for teachers in certain districts with problems retaining teachers.
She has emergency certification to teach now but is only one class away from being a fully licensed math teacher. Currently she teaches algebra, algebra 2, calculus and trigonometry.
Although not quite there yet, for the past year Knoespel has been doing what she wanted to do all along.
“I don’t care if it’s an algebra class or algebra 2 or an upper level class. I like the moment when you see the light bulb turn on, when you look at their face and you can see they got it,” she said.
Knoespel’s love for teaching is in line with how the district feels about her being there.
“I fully expect that she will provide the consistency over time our math program needs to segment our curriculum and provide consistent instruction for our students,” Moscinski said.
Unlike younger teachers, many of whom use smaller districts as stepping-stones to bigger jobs, Knoespel said she is in it for the long haul in Stockbridge.
“I am so thankful for Stockbridge,” she said. “I am so thankful because they have really changed my life.”