COAL TOWNSHIP - Six teachers with more than 200 years of experience will retire Friday from Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School.

Among the retirees is Barb Reiprish, who has dedicated an entire career to her alma mater by providing outstanding instruction in home economics and family and consumer sciences for 40 years.

The 61-year-old Elysburg resident, who can be described as the "Dick Clark" of women at Lourdes because she never seems to age, said she will definitely miss her students and the teachers and administrators with whom she has worked over the years, but believes "it's time to go and begin a new chapter in her life."

She has no regrets about her long career at the Catholic school from which she graduated in 1970.

"I've always enjoyed teaching this class, and I couldn't see myself doing anything else," Reiprish said Monday at the school. "My mother had a big influence on me entering the field of home economics. I've learned a lot from her in terms of cooking, parenting and other life skills."

Reiprish, a daughter of Robert "Lefty" and Ella Wurster, of Shamokin, said, "When I was growing up, girls either became a teacher or a nurse. Those were really the only two career opportunities for women."

After attending St. Joseph's College in Emmitsburg, Md., and graduating with a bachelor of science degree in home economics from Eastern Illinois University, she began teaching at Lourdes in 1973, when the high school had more than 800 students. This school year, there were only 90 students in grades nine to 12.

She later earned a master's degree in special education from Bloomsburg University.

She has taught a few thousand students over the years and her class sizes have ranged from eight to 25.

Reiprish has served under eight principals, including the late Rev. T. Ronald Haney, who hired her, and current principal Deacon Marty McCarthy.

Preparing for life

Her first year, she assisted Sister Celine in teaching home economics to only girls. When she took over the class the next school year, Reiprish continued to teach girls, but also added a class for boys called "bachelor's survival," which lasted about five years. She has been teaching a co-ed class since that time.

Initially, the course involved just cooking and sewing. But over the years, child development, parenting skills, nutrition and wellness were incorporated into the curriculum.

About 15 years ago, the name of the course changed from home economics to family and consumer sciences.

"This course helps students prepare for life and offers the basic skills they need to be successful," she said. "Nutrition and wellness have been stressed in recent years due to many children becoming obese at an early age. I make sure they know what foods are good for them and I also talk about the importance of staying fit by working out or even walking.

"Many students take this class because they enjoy eating and love making their own food. But eating trends have changed over the years, which has prompted me to teach students to make 'quick meals' since today's society is always on the go and eating fast. Like all professions, you have to adapt to the times."

She said food processors and microwaves have made prep work in her class faster and easier over the years.

She said students have changed over the years and aren't as independent as they should be.

"We've had terrific kids here at Lourdes through the years," she said. "The school provides a great Catholic environment by stressing the importance of religion, respect for each other and discipline. But over the years, some of the students have become spoiled and rely too much on others, especially their parents."

She added, "I always tell my students that this is a life skills class and you have to live it daily."

Reiprish said it's been a pleasure and honor to work with the other faculty and administrators at Lourdes for four decades because they have been so caring and willing to fill in for each other, which makes everyone's job easier.

"The students, faculty, administrators and staff really make Lourdes a family atmosphere," she said. "You get to know everyone by name here because it's a small school and that's something you don't have at the public schools."

Other projects

Reiprish, who has been teaching students in grades seven to 12 for about five years, is well known for getting her students involved in gingerbread houses and cookie contests during the Christmas season and spearheading Easter egg and apple crumb and pumpkin pie sales to raise funds for her class.

Besides teaching her class, Reiprish also has been responsible for managing the school's cafeteria for 30 years, a job that entails tons of paperwork, scheduling and developing menus.

"That's been a job in itself over the years," she said. "It gets overwhelming at times."

In addition to home economics, Reiprish has taught health, anatomy and study skills during her career at Lourdes.

She also has been in charge of the school's uniforms for many years and has served on the academic council, National Honor Society and finance committees, and various after-school clubs.

When other teachers are enjoying their summer vacation, Reiprish is hard at work as a cook and supervisor at the Alamo Restaurant and food stand at Knoebels Amusement Resort, where she has been employed for 20 years.

"I enjoy staying busy," Reiprish said.

She loves working out at Achieve Fitness in Paxinos and describes herself as a "fitness fanatic."

She and her husband, Dennis, have three children, Matthew Reiprish, 41; Amy Reiprish 38, and Jen (Reiprish) Dexter, 36, and five grandchildren, Max and Vivian Reiprish, Ellen, Sadie and Quinn Dexter.

Her husband (Class of 1970) and their three children are graduates of Lourdes. Matthew, Amy and Jen also have the distinction of being members of the school's two PIAA Class A state basketball championship teams in 1990 (boys) and 1993 (girls).

Reiprish and her husband are members of Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church, Elysburg.

Reiprish said she plans to do some traveling upon her retirement and spend more time with her grandchildren.

She wished her successor the best of luck.

'Vast wealth'

McCarthy had nothing but praise for Reiprish and the other five teachers who are retiring.

"We are losing a vast wealth of Catholic identity with the retirements of these very good teachers," he said. "They will be sorely missed. Barb has been super efficient, caring and a true professional during her long career at Lourdes."

Other retirees include religion and 8th grade science teacher Joseph Litchko; dean of studies and French teacher Ann Mains; elementary teacher Mary Major; her husband, Brian Major, who teaches high school Spanish, and elementary teacher Betty Ann Corrigan.

Litchko has a total of 40 years of teaching experience, including the past eight at Lourdes. Mains has 22 years of experience, including 18 at Lourdes. Mary Major has 31 years of experience, including eight at Lourdes. Brian Major has 42 years of experience, including four at Lourdes. Corrigan has 40 years of experience, including seven at Lourdes.

Also retiring after 14 years of dedicated service to the school is maintenance employee Doris Ginck.