Clarence Kapraun in front of a classroom for 51st year
Math instructor spent 37 years in Logansport public schools
LOGANSPORT, Ind. – Think back to the days of Sputnik, the “space race” with Russia, the Cold War in orbit. On Sept. 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave his famous “moon speech,” calling on Americans to come together to be the first nation to put astronauts on Earth’s nearest neighbor in space. Americans in education, industry and government came together in a patriotic quest that required more and better math and science education.
Clarence Kapraun, now an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Community College’s Logansport campus, was one young Indiana man who answered the call – and this semester he’s starting his 51st year at the front of a classroom as a teacher of mathematics and physics.
Kapraun remembers that interest in the subjects was really high throughout the country by the time he was completing his undergraduate work at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer. While graduation didn’t come until January 1964, his teaching career began in November 1963 when Kentland High School (now South Newton) found itself in need of a teacher. At the time, he was barely older than the high school seniors he was teaching. Kapraun went on to earn a double master’s degree in math and physics from Indiana State University.
From Kentland he moved to Logansport, hired as a science teacher at Columbia Middle School where, for 37 years, he served mainly as a math teacher. Generations of eighth-graders learned their algebra and geometry from Mr. Kapraun before his retirement from the public schools at the end of the 1996-97 school year.
Kapraun has taught at Ivy Tech sites since 1996
He didn’t stay retired for long. By the next fall semester, at the behest of current Ivy Tech Kokomo Region Chancellor Steve Daily, who then served as director of Ivy Tech’s Logansport instructional site, he was back in the classroom. His service as an adjunct math instructor for Ivy Tech continues today.
Having tired of the “rampant hormones on feet” that are middle schoolers, the irreverent and irascible Kapraun says he still enjoys teaching the variety of students who attend Ivy Tech. And he’s earned a cadre of fans.
Take Mary Pruitt, an Ivy Tech graduate employed at Ivy Tech’s Learning Resource Center (LRC) on the Kokomo campus where Kapraun has also taught.
“When I first started at Ivy Tech, I hated math and knew I would never graduate because I did not understand it. I worked in the LRC and would get any math instructor to help me when I was stuck (which was 98 percent of the time),” Pruitt said. “Kap was one of the instructors who always helped me and if it had not been for him I would not be where I am today. Kap never, never made me feel stupid. He would explain the most complex thing (which was pretty much everything for me) in a way that the light bulb would come on and I could continue my work.”
Mike Federspill, now director of Ivy Tech’s K-12 initiative in Kokomo Region, worked with Kapraun on several Ivy Tech Corporate College classes. “He was always willing to help and do his best to make each project succeed,” Federspill said. “He speaks from the heart and tells it as he sees it! He’s always a pleasure to work with.”
Alan Kunkle served as chair of the Ivy Tech math program and said he always appreciated how reliable and flexible Kapraun is as an instructor, committed to doing a good job for whatever the schedule calls for.
“One of his greatest strengths is his ability to relate to students in applied math,” Kunkle said. “When teaching apprenticeship programs, he can teach geometry and trigonometry in a way that connects with the students. He sees how these students can use this education out in their jobs … and helps them understand it.”
Kunkle joined others in noting Kapraun’s “reluctance to be dragged into the future” when it comes to using technology for instruction and grade-keeping – and Kapraun, fondly known as “cantankerous” and “curmudgeonly,” agreed. “The changes Clarence has seen in 50 years are just incredible,” Kunkle said. “Clarence would say, ‘I’ve always put my grades on a piece of paper. Now you want me to put them on that danged machine?’ It’s not that it’s something he couldn’t learn. He just doesn’t want to do it!”
For Kapraun, even if he shuns cell phones, computers and email, the challenges and rewards of teaching remain worthwhile. “I still enjoy it or I wouldn’t do it,” he says. “I’ll keep on doing it as long as I enjoy it.”
Kapraun and wife Barbara now live in Logansport and spend time keeping up with their three children and four grandsons. Eldest daughter Deborah Kapraun followed in his educational footsteps and is in her tenth year as a social studies and English teacher at an international middle school in Beijing. Son Gregory lives in Rochester, Minn., where he works as an electrical engineer for Mayo Clinic, while younger daughter Michelle Marsh owns and operates a business based in Fort Wayne.