Allan Zeitz is going home.
After living in Nebraska for more than 50 years, and after teaching more than 1,500 children, Zeitz is going back to Minnesota.
There, he’s going to drop a fishing line in some of the state’s lakes, reconnect with friends at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Fairmont and have Sunday dinner with his 95-year-old mother.
Going home will be easy.
Leaving Norfolk won’t be.
For 46 years, Zeitz has taught students at Christ Lutheran School in Norfolk the basics of biology and chemistry and other sciences mixed with a generous amount of theology.
Teaching students about God is “vital,” Zeitz said.
“We’re trying to understand a world God created and gave us to work in. When we remove the study of him, we’re going to go in the wrong direction,” he said.
He came to be a teacher by accident in a way. Although he was raised on a farm near Fairmont, he never really considered staying in that profession. His dad was too young to retire, and two brothers were already in line, he said.
While still in high school, Zeitz met a couple of students from Concordia College in Seward who made an impression on him and led him to the school. At the time, Concordia — now Concordia University — just trained teachers. Because one of his grade school teachers had instilled in him an interest in science, he chose to major in that field.
He ended up in Norfolk by chance. In 1968, when he was a senior in college, he was asked to indicate what area of the country he would like to move to.
“I said I’d like to go north and west; I went northwest 100 miles. I was thinking the Great Northwest,” he said with a laugh.
When Zeitz arrived at Christ Lutheran School, it was physically about one-half the size it is now. He set up shop in a room in the southwest corner of the section of the building built in 1924, where banging radiators accompanied lectures and the wooden floors creaked under the hurried steps of students going up and down the halls.
He would probably still be there in that same classroom if not for the addition of a new wing of classrooms about a decade ago — the need for which was perpetuated by the growing student population.
Teaching has changed in 46 years, he said.
Then, “chemistry and biological science were important,” he said. “Now, chemistry has been dropped out of textbooks . . . now there’s more ecology and earth sciences.”
For that reason, Zeitz has kept some of the old textbooks and uses them to introduce students to the subject.
If they aren’t introduced to chemistry (while in grade school), it’s too difficult for some of them once they get into high school, he said.
While teaching methods have changed through the years, students really haven’t, he said. Yes, today they know more about technology, he said, but “kids will still be kids.”
“They may get themselves into trouble sometimes, but, for the most part, our students behave quite well. We have a lot of parental involvement here, and that’s important for our students. Parents are concerned about what their kids are doing,” he said.
In addition to teaching, Zeitz has served the school in a variety of other capacities, including stints as interim superintendent a couple of times. He’s also sponsored youth camping and ski trips and assisted with Lutheran High Northeast’s athletic programs.
For fun, in addition to fishing, Zeitz likes to hunt ducks and pheasants. He’s taught hunter safety classes for so many years he’s stopped counting.
Principal Steve Stortz is among the people who will be sorry to see Zeitz leave.
"Through his time at Christ Lutheran, Allan has shown an unwavering dedication to God and his students. He has enriched the elective program with such subjects as hunter safety and woodworking. In science, many students have commented that the chemistry they learned from him covered everything they needed in high school chemistry courses. He has been a great worker for God. He will be missed," Stortz said.
Zeitz will be among those honored Sunday at a luncheon at Christ Lutheran School after the congregation’s 10:45 a.m. worship service concludes. As part of the annual Lutheran Schools Week, the church and school celebrate staff members marking ministry milestones, including upcoming retirements.
Although he’s had opportunities to go to other schools through the years, Zeitz said he finally decided this is where God wanted him, so he stayed.
Now, he is telling him it’s time to go home.
“A long time ago, I said ‘if the Lord lets me teach for 45 years, that’s a good goal.’ That came and went. Mom will be 96 in June. For years, she’s been asking me when I’m going to retire. When I was home for Christmas, we talked about it and decided it was the right time.”
So this summer, Zeitz will pack up his classroom, his house and 46 years of memories and head north.
“I’ll miss being with the kids,” he said. “I’ll miss watching them go through high school and will miss having students who have been out of school for 10 or 20 years stop back and say hi. I don’t know how I’ll get along without that.”