"I Am St. Francis"
The Alumni/Faculty & Staff Perspective
It says a lot about a school when its graduates want to come back and serve the next generation of students and families. St. Francis High School has a history of alumni returning to their alma mater with the goal of having an impact on students in the same way teachers and coaches did for them. Thank you, alumni, for sharing your talents with St. Francis High School!
1. During your tenure at SFHS, please list your job title(s) and/or what you have taught, moderated, coached.
Mrs. Becky Feltes ’97 Fischesser: Director of Alumni Relations – started as Alumni Events Coordinator, then Alumni Relations Manager
Mr. Jeff Gerdeman ‘87: Currently Director of IT, Business Teacher (Honors Accounting II), and Girls’ Basketball Coach; formerly Asst. Business Manager, Math Teacher, and lower-level Boys' Basketball and Baseball Coach.
Mrs. Kate Michel ’92 Kowalski: English, Criminology, Sociology, Creative Writing, Speech teacher, Student government moderator, Sophomore Girls’ Basketball Coach; Varsity Girls' Basketball Coach, Social Studies Department Chair, Co-Activities Director.
Mr. Mike Lynch ‘77: Business/Technology Department Chair and Teacher (Classes taught: Honors Econ, Consumer Education, Marketing Management, Business Communications, Business Law), Boys' Varsity Volleyball Coach, Intramural Coordinator, Blood Drive Coordinator
Ms. Mary Pratscher ‘93: Senior English, Junior English, AP Lit and Comp, AP Lang and Comp; Varsity Dance Coach, Senior Class Moderator
Ms. Eileen Tobin ‘00: Main Office and Admissions Associate since 2018.
Mrs. Beth Erazmus ’89 Wiborg: Director of the International Student Program, Assistant Director of Admissions, and SALT Moderator
2. How has SFHS changed from when you were a student?
Mrs. Fischesser: The classes have grown as has the school physically. However, the same feeling of community and family remain at SFHS. Everyone knows your name and the teachers are genuinely invested in their students.
Mr. Gerdeman: Perhaps I had tunnel vision when I attended SFHS, but I believe SFHS better embraces the total student experience – academic, athletics, performing & visual arts, pastoral ministry, and much, much more. There is a place for everyone!
Mrs. Kowalski: The only thing that really changed is the building; the spirit and love and community never went away, but the Spyglass, theater and science wing came along!
Mr. Lynch: I think the biggest changes since I went to St. Francis in the ’70s are the number of course offerings, the many additions to the campus, and the focus on being a strong college prep high school.
Ms. Pratscher: It’s almost twice as large and has a stronger emphasis on service and ministry.
Ms. Tobin: There are many things that have changed at St. Francis since my time as a student here, most notably the new buildings. We broke ground on the Spyglass and Kuhn Theatre my senior year, so it has been a joy to see those in use by students.
Mrs. Wiborg: While the school has changed, the spirit within the halls is the same. The SFHS teachers are true servant leaders in action. They are dedicated, take the time to get to know the students and give them confidence to reach their potential.
3. Why have you chosen to work for your alma mater?
Mrs. Fischesser: I was reconnected with St. Francis High School after my mom’s death in 2009. My family and I were so impressed with the school’s overwhelmingly kind and welcoming response. I witnessed her legacy through the hundreds of students and faculty/staff that attended her wake and funeral and it deeply impacted me. I wanted to get involved with this community I had known for so long. I started as a volunteer. First, I served on the Education Committee, then became a member of the Alumni Association and when the opportunity arose I joined the staff.
Mr. Gerdeman: I left the corporate world to return to SFHS to teach and coach with the hopes that I could make a fraction of the impact that my teachers like Mike Harper, George Craver, Linda Stutler, and Joan Kustak made on me.
Mrs. Kowalski: When I became a teacher, I didn’t realize it was what I wanted, but I was hired as a coach and came back home I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
Mr. Lynch: I wanted to give back and be a part of providing a great education the same way it happened for me years ago. I had some great teachers who probably never realized the impact they had on my life. Every day I walk into the building I have the ability to help our students be better prepared for college and life.
Ms. Pratscher: The community. It’s a very caring place that feels like family.
Ms. Tobin: With all the advancement, one thing stays constant, and that is that we are St. Francis. The community, the family, the spirit that connects us all is even more powerful today! It is an honor and a joy to be a part of the staff now as a proud alum.
Mrs. Wiborg: My oldest daughter was a senior at SFHS when I began working here. The education, love, and support all my children receive(d) on a daily basis from teachers and staff is/was exceptional. I jumped at the opportunity to work in an environment that fosters these values.
4. How has your SFHS education and student experience impacted your life? (i.e. lessons learned, values playing out in your life, lifelong friendships, etc.)
Mrs. Becky Fischesser: The core values I learned here at SFHS have stayed with me as I’ve grown. In particular, the spiritual foundation from SFHS remains an important part of my religious experience. Lessons about Spirit Stories and Kairos impacted my teenage self so much that I carry them with me still today. Also, I have long-lasting friendships from SFHS that have become family over the years.
Mr. Gerdeman: My parents sacrificed to send me and my 6 siblings to SFHS. I will be forever grateful to them – and my teachers/coaches - for the lessons learned in and out of the classroom. In addition, I have had the absolute pleasure of witnessing children of my classmates walk the halls; perform on the court, field, or stage; and walk down the aisle at graduation – not to mention my own kids (Michael Downs ’14 and John ’21)!
Mrs. Kowalski: My relationship with God was solidified at Francis- Kairos changed my life. My best friends who have been with me through life’s joy and sadness are from St. Francis - it is the reason I am who I am today and why my own kids are here now.
Mr. Lynch: St. Francis has been a big part of my life and has helped shape who I am today. It has also had the same impact on my own children. The building has changed with many major improvements since I went to school here, but the ability to instill strong values, morals, and appreciation for all we have, has remained the same.
Ms. Pratscher: SFHS prepared me very well for college academics, and I learned about compassion and taking care of people.
Ms. Tobin: My time as a student at St. Francis has always empowered me to be my best self and exceed even my own expectations of what is possible. My teachers here prepared me to be a productive, contributing, and compassionate human being. Throughout my life, I carry St. Francis with me in everything I do.
Mrs. Wiborg: SFHS has impacted my family’s life in so many ways. All my siblings attended SFHS, I’m married to an alum of SFHS, and we’ve chosen to send our children here. The foundation of St. Francis has always been community and the promotion of individuality; which has always been important to me.
5. Why are you proud to be a SFHS alum?
Mr. Gerdeman: SFHS is my home away from home. I have now spent over ½ my life in these halls and am proud to wear Spartan blue and white – although my wife probably wishes I had a little more variety in my wardrobe.
Mrs. Kowalski: I am proud to be an alum, because St. Francis taught me how to have integrity, how to work hard and how to love others; I’m not sure how many other schools can do that.
Mr. Lynch: I am proud to be a St. Francis alum because I am a part of building on the traditions that were started many decades ago.
Ms. Tobin: St. Francis to me means support, faith, warmth, encouragement, compassion, stability, friendship, family, and excellence.
Mrs. Wiborg: It’s an amazing school where I’ve made lifelong friends. There’s a common thread among SFHS alum that’s bonding.
6. What is one word that encapsulates your experience at SFHS?
Mrs. Fischesser: Family.
Mr. Gerdeman: Fulfilling
Mrs. Kowalski: Life-changing.
Mr. Lynch: MEMORABLE.
Ms. Pratscher: Family.
Ms. Tobin: St. Francis is HOME.
Mrs. Wiborg: Enduring