- Many teachers relish the thought of transferring to a different school—fresh start, new surroundings, colleagues and students. Not Keith Vollmer. His 41-year teaching career came to a close just where it began: Midland Adventist Academy.Fresh out of college with a bachelor’s degree in education, Vollmer and wife Becky moved from his native South Dakota to Lincoln, Nebraska, in hopes of denominational employment. Before even unpacking their suitcases, Vollmer was interviewed by then Kansas Conference education superintendent, Charles Case, about an opening at Midland Adventist School in Overland Park.This was Vollmer’s first and last teaching position.
“I got the job Thanksgiving Eve of 1971. We had a great Thanksgiving the next day,” he remembers. “I was raised in a little town of McLaughlin, South Dakota and lived there all my life until going away to academy and college. Moving around hasn’t been part of my make up.”
What has been a constant in Vollmer’s life is the teaching profession. Reared by a mother who was a teacher, Vollmer knew early in life what he wanted to become as a working adult.
“My mother was a Christian teacher in the public school system. She loved her students but could not share her great love of the Lord with them. I wanted to be like her, but also wanted to be able to share the Lord with my students.”
A Scripture that has motivated Vollmer through the years is 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” He declares, “This applies not only to my own children but to all the students I have taught.”
Practicing what he teaches, the Vollmers’ two children, Tracy and Adam, both attended Midland through grade 10 (before the school went to full academy status), graduated from Enterprise and Sunnydale academies, respectively, and then went on to Union College. Now their four grandchildren all attend the same school where their grandfather taught 41 years.
“What I appreciate most is being able to teach my second generation of students. I’ve had their parents and now I have their children,” he says. “So many of my previous students are not just students, they are friends. Being able to watch them grow up and now their children grow up has been rewarding.”
In 1996, Vollmer’s teaching abilities were recognized when he received the Zapara Award for Teaching Excellence in education.
Vollmer’s plans for retirement do not include a moving van. “This area has been home and will continue to be home. We plan to stay in the area to watch our grandchildren go through Midland.”
Current Midland principal, Trudy Hoffman, shares, “Rarely does a teacher come to a school and leave such a lasting impression that will be felt for years to come. For 41 years he has been a role model to his students spiritually, academically and socially. Midland Adventist Academy has been richly blessed by Mr. Vollmer and his commitment to serving our youth through Adventist education.”
Kansas-Nebraska Conference education superintendent Gary Kruger, who also spent six years as Vollmer’s principal, adds, “Forty-one years of teaching! But 41 years of teaching in the same school? What a remarkable achievement! For 32 years I’ve known Keith in numerous capacities. He’s been a colleague; I’ve been his principal. He’s taught my sons, and above all he’s been a friend. My life will forever be impacted because I had the privilege of knowing this man.”
One of the more than 600 students Vollmer taught at Midland, Mitch Seltman from the class of 2009, may have summed it up best: “Thank you for being one of the most kind-hearted teachers I have ever had. You are the Midland experience.”
Author John Treolo is communication director for the Kansas-Nebraska Conference.