By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
Carol Rettinger, Principal of St. Philip’s School in Bemidji, is preparing to retire after working in education for 43 years. Three decades of her career were spent at St. Philip’s.
Other than a brief time when she considered being a psychologist or interpreter, Rettinger always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She started her career teaching seventh and eighth grade in a four-room schoolhouse in southwestern North Dakota. She spent three years there.
After marrying her husband, Don, Rettinger converted to Catholicism. She spent two years as a substitute teacher in area schools before becoming a seventh and eighth grade teacher in Lefor, N.D., for 10 years.
Rettinger and her husband moved to Bemidji in 1987. The first time they attended Mass at St. Philip’s, Rettinger found out that St. Philip’s School was looking for a seventh grade teacher. She applied and was hired. She remembers being worried that as a convert, she wasn’t Catholic enough to teach at a Catholic school. Those feelings didn’t last long.
“Teaching at St. Philip’s has deepened my faith and made me more aware of my faith and more knowledgeable than I ever would have become if I wasn’t there,” Rettinger said.
She spent eight years teaching seventh grade at St. Philip’s before becoming principal for 22 years.
Rettinger is grateful for the shared values and faith she found as a teacher at St. Philip’s.
“Having such a wonderful community of believers to work with and be with, and having a school that is part of the parish community, I just felt it magnified all that we could learn and do and see,” she said.
“Carol’s love of children shows in the depth with which she knows each child and each family,” Father Chuck Huck, Pastor of St. Philip’s, Bemidji said. “This allows her to react in a manner that is appropriate to each situation.”
Father Huck was impressed with her desire to have a presence in the classrooms as the principal. He said she intentionally sets her schedule to be in classrooms and interacting with the students. She also helps students get ready to assist at Mass.
“Every child attending St. Philip School has had the opportunity to be trained in their role in the liturgy by Carol the day before the Mass,” Father Huck said.
She said throughout her career at St. Philip’s, one thing she has loved is seeing former students enroll their children in the school.
“It is so heartwarming and validating what we have done as a school when we have former students bringing their kids back,” she said.
She also enjoys some of the relationships she has maintained with former students as they have grown up.
As she looks back at her time spent serving St. Philip’s, Rettinger said she is grateful for the realization of how God has worked in her life.
“You might not always have a chance to think about it, but it really helps when you’re in a Catholic environment because it bangs you on the head,” she said.
“Carol is an example of how Scripture is alive and well in today’s world,” said Father Huck.
He said 2 Timothy 4:7-8 is a verse that describes her career at St. Philip’s. “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.”
“Carol has lived this by her words and actions,” he said. “We wish her well on her retirement.”
After the school year is complete Rettinger will spend the summer months mentoring and assisting the new principal Jana Norgaard.
Rettinger is looking forward to having relaxed mornings, being a volunteer and spending more time with her three grown children and two grandchildren.
“God has just blessed me. He was the one leading and calling and put me where I have been. I know it; there is no doubt. He has blessed me over and over and over again. I thank him all the time,” Rettinger said.