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Beyond Compare

To realize the purpose of public education is first to understand the incomparable and exponential impact of the approximately three million teachers in public schools across the U.S. today.
Longmont High Schools' Coach Kloster stands with current and former LHS basketball team members. Photo by Colin Rickman.

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Walking the halls of Longmont High School, the subtle squeak of tennis shoes echoing along the walls, conjures a sense of deep history and transcendent purpose. How many others have journeyed through these corridors, rushing to beat the bell to their third-period class? What were their formative high school memories that traverse time and space, evoking some of life’s greatest moments of joy, heartache, pride, and hope? In which chair, in which classroom, did a student experience that transformational spark of discovery that would lead them to a lifetime of invention…or service…or the betterment of our world?

To realize the purpose of public education and the life-changing experiences throughout our schools is first to understand the incomparable impact of the approximately three million teachers in public schools across the U.S. today – and the millions that served before them. Throughout their career, the average teacher will reach over 3,000 children, with 88% of adults in the U.S. (approximately 290 million people) reporting at least one teacher who had a significant, positive impact on their life. The lifetime effect of teachers on our greater world is both exponential and infinite. 

For every life that has been impacted by a teacher, how many other lives will also be transformed? 

Enter any classroom across St. Vrain Valley Schools, and there might sit a future doctor who will save dozens of lives and bring hundreds of new ones into the world. Next to them could be a future state senator who will write and pass legislation that will provide affordable housing for thousands – and of those receiving that benefit, many may go on to start a business that employs hundreds also working to rise above poverty. 

Two rows behind them may sit a future engineer who will contribute to the design of a new building system that will go on to save thousands of lives when an earthquake hits in 30 years. Dozens of those lives saved will go on to join the armed services and one will serve as a future Secretary of State. 

In the front row could sit a student who will volunteer as their elementary school PTO president and at the local library – their children and grandchildren will grow to share their love of community that will form deep roots and provide decades of service to the St. Vrain Valley. 

Next to them might sit a future high school teacher and basketball coach who will spend his 40-year career advancing student success through a culture of fostering championship hearts and minds that will reach far beyond his 500 career wins and thousands of laps around the gym. At least this is the story of Jeff Kloster’s impact on the Longmont High community and beyond.

They Call Him Coach

In 1975, when Jeff Kloster was getting ready to graduate from Longmont High School, he already knew that teaching and coaching was his future. At the age of 10, Coach Kloster suffered severe burns and was hospitalized for nine months while he was undergoing multiple operations and only attended school for a few days at a time. 

“It was a tough time and the person who impacted me the most was the P.E. teacher and coach at my school," shared Coach Kloster, P.E. Teacher and Head Basketball Coach at Longmont High School. “He was like, ‘I’ve got you,’ and that made such an impression. It was at that point that I knew that this was my calling.”

Coach Kloster began his career as a P.E. teacher at Northeast Junior High School (now Timberline PK-8) in Longmont in the early 1980s, and it wasn’t long until he was making a difference for his students. “As a teacher in a junior high school, I’d get to see the same students for three straight years, so they really make an impact on you.”

In those early years of his career, Coach Kloster formed strong bonds and had such a connection with his students that they continue to reflect on the role he had in shaping the person they are today. 

“Coach Kloster was involved in everything, and when I think about him, there was a complete emphasis on the team,” shared Scott Scheppers, a 1987 graduate of Skyline High School and former student at Northeast Junior High. “His whole focus was on the emphasis of every single person in the room and that not one of you is more important than the other. Together you will be stronger than alone.”

This sentiment helped to carry Scott to a successful 27-year career in the Air Force before he became a cybersecurity executive at AT&T. “It was a focus on the building blocks and fundamentals that grew confidence and advanced the program,” added Scott. “We had a lot of success at Skyline and Jeff Kloster was a part of that in the foundation he helped build for us.” 

From those early years at Northeast Junior High, to returning to his high school alma mater as a teacher, to his first game as the Longmont High Head Basketball Coach, to celebrating his 500th win in early 2022, the imprint Coach Kloster has left on the Longmont community – and the thousands of students who have come of age in his classrooms and on his courts – goes far beyond measure.

“Everyone wants to win, but our goal and the bottom line is that we’re preparing kids for life. We want them to be successful in life,” shared Kloster. “If you come into our gym at the end of every practice, we talk about how we love our kids. We want them to know they are valued much more as a person than a player, so when I teach my classes, it’s the same thing – they’re my kids.”

The Generational Impact of Teaching

For Brooke Silva, a Spanish Teacher at Skyline High School, memories of her early experiences with Coach Kloster when she was a student at Northeast Junior High evoke a wide smile. “He always had a funny joke or kind thing to say to me,” shared Silva. “You would never see him without a smile on his face.”

Similar to Coach Kloster’s calling to become an educator, Silva knew from an early age that she wanted to be a teacher, serving as a teacher’s aide in high school and feeling inspired by her mentor teachers. “I had such great memories of Skyline – it was my home away from home,” she shared. “I always felt comfortable here and wanted to be a teacher here.”

Now in her 28th year of teaching at Skyline, Silva’s approach to teaching remains centered on building relationships and making students feel safe and valued. It is this focus that has had a generational impact on the community and continues to inspire students. 

“I’ve had several students become Spanish teachers, which is pretty amazing,” said Silva. “I definitely keep in touch with a lot of students. They come back and visit, I’ve gone to their weddings, I’ve held their babies.” 

As Silva’s former students have families of their own, the next generation of students now has the opportunity to also benefit from her teaching. “What I really like the most is seeing my former students as parents and realizing, ‘wow, they are such great parents,’” said Silva. “It is almost a leg up for me as a teacher because it is another easy way to form a relationship with the student, I’ve already built that connection in their family.”

The Teaching Profession is Beyond Compare

In the U.S. today, over 90% of our children attend a public school, and outside of parenting, the teaching profession has had possibly the greatest impact on our past, present, and future. Across our classrooms, through our hallways, on our fields, and beyond our schools, infinite memories and moments are being created that will forever shape the humans who will determine the future direction of our society. At the heart of it all is a teacher whose mark on our world is beyond compare.

“Kids still call me up to ask for advice or to say, ‘Remember what you taught us? I’m passing that on,’” shared Kloster. “So now all of those blessings are coming back to bless me, because I think no amount of money could replace those relationships. That’s why we’re in this.”