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The Mexico Ledger - Mexico, MO
  • Kathleen Robnett retires as principal of St. Joseph School

  • Robnett looking for leisure time
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  • Kathleen (Kay) Robnett, a 25-year veteran principal, is retiring as the head of St. Joseph Catholic School in Martinsburg. She said, "It is time for my years of service to St. Joseph School to end.
    “Both my parents have died in the last 37 months and I came to the decision that I'm not going to live forever," Robnett said. "It's time to do the things I want to do, rather than rushing, being behind all the time and always thinking there's a deadline I have not quite reached at the right time."
    Her personal mission statement as an educator is, "I live to learn, serve and rejoice each day. I want to learn more about God and the world; I want to serve others; and I want to rejoice with others as they learn more about themselves and the world."
    Her favorite courses to teach are science, writing and religion, especially first communion.
    Robnett attended St. Joseph as part of the 1954 first grade class, the first to begin their elementary education in the present building and the last to be taught exclusively by nuns as instructors.
    She and her husband, Kenneth (Ken) Robnett Jr., began dating when the two were junior students at Community R-6. "We started dating when we were 16, so about 50 years ago. We married in 1970. Ken was drafted while I was going to college at the University of Missouri and working for the state 4-H office. He spent 17 months in Germany during the Vietnam War. It is comical, because the kids don't believe me now, but I wrote him letters. We had telephones, but heavens, you couldn't afford to talk on them and we didn't have cellphones or Skype. All we could do was write letters, so that's what we did."
    The couple have two sons, seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.
    Robnett studied to be a dietician at the university, but went into education because she knew she would be marrying a local person and that finding a job as a dietician in the Martinsburg area would be difficult.
    She said former Community R-6 teachers Neola Williams and Sterling Holbrook also inspired her to become an educator.
    After graduating from college Robnett began teaching fifth grade at Community R-6. She started at St. Joseph as a part-time teacher from 1976-1980 and taught grades seventh and eighth full-time from 1985-1986.
    While there Sister Alice Katherine, the principal at the time, asked her if she would be willing to participate in a principal internship program. "Sister Alice Katherine said, 'someday I might decide not to come back' and the next year she didn't, so here I was." She would remain principal from 1986-1997.
    Up until Robnett, only nuns had served as principal of the school and some feared that it would "no longer be Catholic" with a lay principal.
    Page 2 of 3 - Robnett temporarily left St. Joseph to teach Title I at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center from 1998-1999. About the experience, she said, "Really it was good. I enjoyed it. I had under 21-year-olds and there's a little picture in my office one of the ladies made for me called Kay's Babies, because it was like I was spoon feeding them to learn things."
    She returned as the St. Joseph principal in 1999 and will be so until the end of the present semester.
    "St. Joseph School has a dedicated, caring faculty, hard-working parents and great students who have been a pleasure to know," Robnett said. "I will leave with many wonderful memories of everyone at St. Joseph School. I have worked with excellent priests, past faculty and other staff, especially secretaries."
    Among the aspects of teaching she will miss are Advent Activity Night for kindergartners, preparing students for first communion, teaching about saints and trying to instill leadership skills in junior high students.
    "I want the kids to be a part of things, help clean up and know what needs to be done. I think that's important. If something's laying on the ground, they need to know to pick it up and take care of it without making a big to-do. I want them to be responsible. Some groups are easier than others, but this year's is a hardworking group.
    "What I really enjoy is watching former students come back as hardworking, diligent parents, who keep God at the center of their family, and that's not easy in this day and age. There are lots and lots of them. I went through the list and probably about half of the parents I had as students."
    A committee has been formed to decide who will replace Robnett as principal of St. Joseph School. She hopes the decision will be made sometime in May, before summer break begins.
    The new principal must be Catholic, have taught in a Catholic school for at least three years and have earned a master's in administration degree. Though Robnett said the students expected the new principal to come from the current teaching staff, none of the teachers meet all three requirements.
    Robnett said she doesn't expect the school to remain unchanged once she's gone. "That's probably what bothers me the most, because a lot of the things I do Sister Alice Katherine did. I did some new things, but she had set some good ground rules for what to do and I'm afraid some of those won't be followed.
    "We try to make a big to-do about graduation, first communion and all those things and it's hard if you don't have any idea of what's going on. But, I do plan to leave very good records and do what I need to so somebody else can come in and take over, but I don't want to micromanage either. It's a fine line there."
    Page 3 of 3 - Once officially retired, Robnett plans to spend some time deciding where God is calling her next, but she hopes to have some leisure every day, rather than the hurried lifestyle she has become accustomed to as a principal. "I would like to do many things, such as spend time with my immediate and extended family, work in the yard and garden, organize some personal pictures, craft and read without pressure. Someday I would like to write a book of either fiction or local history."
    From her time as a teacher, Robnett said she has learned the value of prayer. "When there are difficult situations, which you always pray there won't be, just pray to God that He will give you the strength and the knowledge to do what we need to do. I firmly believe that what you learn from one situation will help you in the next. You've got to keep learning, growing and expanding."
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