By Kelley Stanage
As long as he can remember, education has always been important in Jon Hahm’s family. After 43 years serving as the principal at St. John’s Lutheran School, Hahm shared some of his thoughts about his service to students and the congregation.
Hahm lived in southeastern Wisconsin when he was going to college in New Ulm. This area was always the highlight of the trip for him, going through the Mississippi river valley. It was the halfway point.
He found it a blessing to be assigned in Caledonia. “We came to Caledonia six days after we were married at 22 years old.”
Hahm had attended a junior college in Milwaukee prior to going to Martin Luther College in New Ulm. He served as the student body president, so he had the leadership experience on top of the credentials earned at Martin Luther College.
Choosing a new principal
“In our church body, you don’t apply for church positions. You’re appointed there,” he said.
As schools and churches have vacancies to fill, they work through the district president, who gives the congregation a list of names, with their interests, strengths and talents.
The congregation votes to fill the vacancy without interviews. Eligible voters in the congregation include males who have signed the congregation’s constitution. Hahm added, “Our wives and our women are certainly part of that assembly, and they are welcome to come to that. And they have input too, and they’re welcome to speak. But the actual voting is done by the husbands.”
“I think it might sound unusual to the secular world. It’s really done with a lot of faith that the Lord guides the decision-making. And, it seems to work,” Hahm said.
The new principal, Nathan Livingston, will be in place in July. He is a native of Watertown, S.D., and has been teaching in Iron Ridge, Wis. Hahm said, “He’s young and has three young children. He’ll bring some new, exciting, young ideas to the congregation.”
Hopes for students
“For me, education is more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. We’re educating the whole child, the soul. My goal is for them to be prepared for what comes after this life. So that is what I’d like to leave them with.”
Hahm said he hopes his students can “use what they’ve learned in their schooling years here to help them through life and become good mothers and fathers, husbands and wives.”
Reflecting on how things have changed from when he started out at St. John’s, Hahm said, “Some things don’t change at all. Kids are kids. Families have changed. Society has changed. The dynamics of the family are different. It seems like everybody’s a lot busier.”
“Every day [the kids] come to school. Every day has its ups and downs, but they come back smiling every day. It’s always a new start. They’re always optimistic. Ready for more learning. They make it enjoyable. You never watch the clock for the day to be over. You just wish time would slow down to get in the things that you want to get in.”
He’s also enjoyed collaboration with co-workers. He noted how important it is to look at your co-workers and see their strengths, rather than identifying their weaknesses.
When asked if he had any advice for the new principal he said, “I don’t like to give advice unless it’s asked for. I guess I’d say go forward in faith, be grounded yourself, pray to the Lord for daily help, and work with your staff.”
The congregation really supports the school. Hahm said, “When they took on building an addition, a gymnasium, classrooms, and computer lab, that really improved the school. Now we can’t imagine not having those extra facilities and we wish we had more.”
Hahm noted that the congregation is identifying early childhood education as important. That is one of their challenges for the future: to find the resources to meet those needs.
He has enjoyed working with the school board and church officials. “They are wonderful, dedicated people to work with. We have tuition, but that doesn’t come anywhere close to paying the actual cost of what the congregation pays to operate their school.”
Hahm also plays the pipe organ. “It’s been a real joy serving the congregation in ways other than just teaching and principal.”
Focus on family
“I could not have done this without my wife, from bulletin boards to all kinds of things, she’s been my unpaid teaching assistant. And throughout the years, she’s been involved in school and church. She is my great sounding board, my biggest critic and my biggest supporter.”
The Hahms are moving to southeast Wisconsin to be near Mrs. Hahm’s mother and to be able to spend more time with their five children and 14 grandchildren.
All five of the Hahm’s children came back last Christmas “because they knew it would be the last Christmas we would be here. They all think of Caledonia as their home.”