Retiring Kewaunee principal says he never went to work
Michael Holtz is one of those lucky people who never had to work.
Instead, he just showed up on the first day of school for the last 58 years, 41 of them as a teacher, coach, dean or principal.
“I told my wife I I ever say I’m going to work, I should quit,” says the retiring principal of Kewaunee High School. “I never worked because it wasn’t work … I was fortunate to have a career in a profession that is my passion.”
Holtz learned early that he loved to teach children when he helped his father coach Little League. He was 15 and a student at Sacred Heart Center in Oneida.
It was 1969 and one of the team’s baseball players was Bart Starr Jr., the son of then Packers quarterback Bart Starr.
At that time, even though he was MVP, Starr, like most of the Packer’s players, had to work part-time to support a family, and Starr worked for Pepsi-Cola, said Holtz.
“He would provide sodas after the game for all the players and coaches,” Holtz said.
Today, a picture signed by Starr that thanks Holtz for coaching his son’s Little League team, the Tigers, is one of Holtz’s most cherished possessions.
Coaching and teaching were synonymous for Holtz.
“I taught students whether in the classroom or athletics,” he said.
Realizing he loved to coach, Holtz attended St. Norbert College in De Pere, where he majored in history and social studies and continued to coach the boys basketball team at St. Agnes Grade School in Green Bay.
When he received his bachelor’s degree, he accepted a position at Edison Junior High School in Green Bay as a social studies teacher and a coach for various sports at West High School and Edison.
After a year, he moved over to West De Pere High School, where he served as a social studies teacher for the next 19 years.
He also served as West De Pere’s varsity softball coach and assistant varsity boys basketball coach and assistant varsity wrestling coach.
By 1999, he had been promoted to dean of students at West De Pere.
“My administrative approach had always been one of teaching,” he said. “But now I was teaching behavior and responsibility.”
In 2000, he obtained his master’s degree in educational leadership from Marian College in Fond du Lac.
He was hired as principal for Kewaunee High School in 2004 and said he has enjoyed every day.
“Instead of coaching softball and basketball, I was coaching teachers about teaching,” he said. “And I was still anchored in helping students. To this day, if asked, I will say, ‘I am a teacher and a coach.'”
Holtz is proudest of his effort to take Kewaunee High School to a five-period, trimester schedule.
The effort began in 2010, changing the school year from two semesters to three and lengthening class times from 45 minutes to 75 minutes.
After five years, Holtz said that the new schedule has reduced stress on both teachers and students. It has also resulted in fewer students failing courses as well as significant gains in students who qualified for the honor roll and students who chose to take more credits.
“Teaching is no longer interrupted by the bell,” said Holtz. “The longer periods and trimester schedule allow our school to maintain quantity and improve quality,” he said, noting that he used his experience in taking West De Pere to a trimester schedule to implement it in Kewaunee.
Holtz said that the last few years at Kewaunee High School have been particularly rewarding.
He and Superintendent Karen Treml accompanied high school students to the Governor’s State of the State address this January, where Kewaunee High School was recognized for its high graduation rate. In addition, Holtz said, the school continues to “exceed expectations” on educational report cards, which he attributes to its strong teaching and administrative staff.
“Mr. Holtz spent an amazing 41 years in education,” said Treml. “Kewaunee School District was fortunate enough to have benefited from his contributions to our educational community for the past 12 years. His passion for teaching and expectations of excellence in education was evident throughout his career.”
While Holtz is retiring from his full-time position, he is keeping his hand in education by accepting a part-time position as commissioner of the Packerland Conference, which will allow him to stay involved with the schools and students in Kewaunee and throughout Northeast Wisconsin.
He will also be working part-time at Holtze’s Golf Shop in Appleton, which is owned by his son..
But perhaps most important, he already has made plans to bring the oldest of his two granddaughters to 4-year-old kindergarten this fall.
“I don’t want to miss the first day of school,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Retiring Kewaunee principal says he never went to work