Diane Boes has cared for people her entire life, and after 33 years of caring for the students at Kuemper grade school, she is finally retired.
Boes grew up in Breda and graduated from St. Bernard High School in 1972. In 1974, she went on to the College of Saint Mary, a private Catholic women’s university in Omaha, graduating with an associate’s degree in education.
Boes married her husband Kevin Boes, a carpenter who now is retired as well, in 1975. Together they had four children. After being a stay-at-home mother for a few years, Boes went back to school at Buena Vista University and graduated in 1987, starting at Kuemper the following year.
Boes first taught third grade at Kuemper, but after school consolidations, she switched to teaching second grade.
Boes said she cherishes working with her Kuemper team, Holly Janning, Mallory Soyer and Jill Wunschel. Boes always was ready with coffee for her team of teachers, in trade, her team would help Boes with any technical problems she experienced.
“They had my back, every single day,” Boes said.
At one point during Boes’s 33 years, she received a secret Santa letter with $40 in the card. From that act of kindness, Boes decided to create the 12 Days of Caring. Students from kindergarten through third grade fill jars with spare change to be donated to community members in need. Roughly 20 years later, the tradition will continue past Boes’ retirement and will be managed by her team.
Not only did Boes create a second family at Kuemper, she also worked with her twin daughters: Sarah Davis, Kuemper K-8 art teacher, and Jill Wenck, who teaches kindergarten at Kuemper.
“I mean, I only live two blocks from the school, but it’s just the fact that I could pop in on (my daughters) in the morning or they’d pop in on me and see how things were going,” Boes said. “It was just a nice connection every day, so I will miss that.”
Boes said she loved teaching both second and third grades, but she particularly enjoyed second grade because she was able to help the students prepare for their first communion. Boes assisted her students in two of their sacraments.
“It was exciting to watch them go from the process, to them getting ready to receive communion and all their questions they have about it, being able to take them to them over to the church and show them the sacristy and the altar up close, watching them taste the host for the first time,” Boes said.
Faith has and will continue to play a big role in Boes’s life even after retirement. As a girl, Boes went to Catholic school and remembers having to wear wearing head coverings during services. While a young Boes was thrilled when she no longer had to wear a headscarf to mass, her early years practicing faith built a foundation for her that she carries with her to this day.
“If you don’t have faith, you really don’t have a whole lot, because you need that base to keep you going every day with all the challenges coming up or (that) were behind me,” Boes said.
Boes’ children include twins and Kuemper teachers Sarah and Jill; Jennifer Steinkamp, a massage therapist in Chanhassen, Minnesota; and Ryan Boes, a supervisor with a Des Moines construction company. Boes also is the grandmother of 10 kids ranging in ages from 3 to 17.
Boes’s retired life will be filled with family time and checking off a travel bucket list she shares with her husband.
It is never boring at Grandma’s house — depending on the season, Boes has a list of activities for her grandkids to do, ranging from swimming in the summer and sledding in the winter to carving pumpkins in the fall.
Boes said she took a similar approach to her educational practice; she made learning fun. Earlier in her career, Boes and her third-grade students turned their classroom into a jungle. Sheets that were ripped into strips and dyed green hung from the ceiling like vines, and students decorated the room with different species of wildlife crafted from construction paper and cardboard.
Outside of room 121, some of Boes’s favorite moments while at Kuemper include class field trips to Swan Lake and Springbrook state parks. This year, Kuemper was unable to go on field trips because of COVID-19, but Boes said the pandemic didn’t spoil her final year, in part because of the schoolwide Masses held at the start and end of every school year.
While the beginning-of-the-year Mass was canceled because of COVID-19, Kuemper was able to host its end-of-the-year mass to close out Boes’ final year.
“Kuemper has been an awesome place to work,” she said. “All schools have their strengths, and I think Kuemper’s strength is the deep faith that you are brought into when you teach there. Everybody is so supportive.”