When I asked Cathy Kliethermes how many children she had she replied, "approximately 600!!!" Astounded, I knew I had to learn more about everyone's favorite Mrs. K at High Point R-III.
Cathy Jo Woolley Kliethermes graduated high school in Eldon and went to Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, to receive a teachers certificate. She returned to Eldon to do student teaching under the direction of Sharon Scott. To Cathy, Scott was the most amazing teacher and mentor she could have ever had. Her students, co-workers and really everyone loved her. "She was certainly an inspiration in every way" said Kliethermes.
Kliethermes went on to teach several years at Tipton and Eldon and then took what she referred to as a "child rearing" leave to concentrate on raising her family. This is where her four sons, Cody, Justin, Brandon and Ryan come into the picture. Not long after, the opportunity to teach at High Point R-III became available and Kliethermes knew this is where she wanted to teach and also have her sons go to school. That goal had always been in the back of Cathy's mind and after 19 years of service she will retire at the end of this school year.
One of her biggest challenges as a teacher was to have her own children in class. According to Cathy, "We all handled it pretty well!" Another strong quality she has is being known as a fixer. When my young students couldn't pronounce Kliethermes, we changed my name to Mrs. K. It was an easy fix.
She really wants everything to be good for everyone. On many occasions she can remember just wanting to take a student home to help "fix" things for them and one time that actually happened. She and her husband fostered a young student for nearly a year.
Teaching has been her world. She has special events with her students each year like a Pilgrim Feast where she teaches her students of the early settlers and how they cooked and lived in the days without electricity. She has enjoyed being a Sneaky Leprechaun and singing "Reptile Rap" with her first and second graders.
Cathy shares a bit of advice for those who come after her in the teaching business, "Connect with your students - be personal - don't be afraid to share your life with them. Both the ups and downs. Kids need that even more these days. A dose of reality never hurt anybody." Above all else Cathy says, "Be hands on whenever an opportunity allows with a student. This makes a memory - sometimes for a lifetime!"
Cathy has enjoyed being a mother, as well as a teacher, she learned a great deal from her own mother. They spend a lot of time together canning, quilting and traveling. They have been to England, Scotland, Wales, the Bahamas and went to Washington, D.C., two years ago. She is excited about the idea of spending more time with her mother when she retires.
Cathy feels blessed to be married to her husband of 28 years, Duane. He is a Final Plans Inspector for MoDot and together they have raised their family. Oldest son, Cody, 26, serves as the Assistant Principal at the Upper Elementary in Eldon. Cody also coaches freshmen basketball. He and his wife, Merideth, have a daughter Cami, 2, and are expecting another daughter in June. Son, Justin, 25, works for the Conservation Department near Kansas City while son, Brandon, 22, teaches at the Eldon Middle School and coaches JV basketball. Their youngest, Ryan, 20, attends college at Linn State Technical College.
Cathy shares "I have enjoyed being a mother over the last 26 years. I was able to stay home with kids for a few years. You can't put a monetary value on that benefit. New moms - taking time is the key to raising your children."
Cathy had pretty high expectations of becoming a grandma but as she spends time with granddaughter, Cami, it is all so much more than she ever dreamed. She is also anxiously awaiting the arrival of her next granddaughter.
On Mother's Day, her family takes her mother and Duane's mother out to breakfast after everyone attends church together. "We look forward to this every year," shared Cathy. "I will also reflect on my children, all 600 of them!"