With every teacher’s retirement, a little piece of Park City High School’s history and soul is lost. Among those who have left, a few are destined to be immortalized, their legendary skills kept alive by students whose lives they influenced.
This year was marked by the retirement of several amazing teachers. Bill Kahn will be remembered for his teasing and tough-love coaching, Tony Winterer for his array of stuffed animals (not the cuddly kind, the dead kind), Jerry Fiat for his college guidance, and there are so many more. All the teachers who gave so much to Park City High deserve recognition, but this article is dedicated to one who, during my time at PCHS, managed to be a teacher, leader, activist, and friend to all who sat through his grueling A.P. classes.
In my opinion, there will never be another John Krenkel. His retirement marks the end of an era.
I have never been able to point out exactly what inspired Krenkel’s vast following. How many teachers have a Facebook group devoted to a group of kids who idolize them?
The "Krenkelites," as they call themselves, are the kids who do, read, attend, and breathe whatever Krenkel tells them to, and there are a lot of them. These students can name "Indochine" as their favorite movie, know the name of Krenkel’s wife, sons, and their wives, know the Academic Decathlon colors, can name at least seven posters that hang on his wall, and have nothing but respect and awe for John Krenkel.
Students took Krenkel’s challenging A.P. classes not so much for the college credit as for the wisdom and stories that were intertwined with the lectures. Learning about European art takes on a whole new character when it is peppered with tales of Krenkel’s journeys and the anecdotes that go with each.
Asking questions was viewed as the best form of participation in Krenkel’s classroom, and once students connected with Krenkel, they had made a friend and mentor for life. Whether it was personal problems, school worries, or college searches, Krenkel always made time for his kids. He treated students as equals, and they tried to be worthy of his expectations.
Krenkel’s compassion is contrasted by his strength, the pressure he can apply to students who aren’t living up to their potential — and the fury that can be invoked if someone dares disrupt his classroom. Krenkel shows the most strength when he takes 60 some kids to Europe every other summer, a task he has been doing since Europe was in the Dark Ages. Not many teachers, or humans for that matter, can organize, oversee, and give tours to high school students who suddenly find themselves able to drink and go clubbing. So far no one has died, including Krenkel, and he manages to give students remarkable freedom while in Europe, showing his outstanding trust in humanity and in his students’ maturity.
Krenkel’s core disciples would have to be the members of the Academic Decathlon team. Under his leadership, the team has blossomed into a nearly unstoppable unit. No one better understands his power to motivate and inspire than the kids who put in countless hours to study and prepare for the competitions. Krenkel led the team to countless victories including second at nationals this year. He put Park City High School on the map.
Any group of people that was overlooked or part of the counterculture, Krenkel was willing to stand up for. Besides spending hours helping the Academic Decathlon team, he also was the teacher advisor for the Gay Lesbian Alliance and spent lunch periods mentoring the numerous students seeking his advice or deep conversation.
When Krenkel left Park City High School last week, he left a classroom filled with his beloved art posters, proudly displayed Academic Decathlon medals, and a school that Krenkel saw change dramatically. He carried the problems of the school on his shoulders, attempting to right wrongs and striving for the idealism he knew was possible if enough people chose to care.
It’s now time for others to step up, to represent the underdog, to lend an ear or a hand to anyone brave enough to ask. The lives Krenkel touched were changed for the better, mine included. He imparted knowledge, the kind that one will never take a written test on. But, in the test of life, Krenkel’s students will fare much better.
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Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson has decried what she called a lenient sentence in a child sex abuse case in which a 20-year-old reportedly attempted to impregnate a 12-year-old. The perpetrator was sentenced to 20 days in jail and 10 years of probation.