At the end of this school year, Orlen Zempel will retire as principal of Kemmerer Junior Senior High School.
Zempel has been the principal of KJSHS since 2007, and has worked in the education world (in either teaching or administrative roles) for 38 years.
Zempel said the most rewarding part of a career in education is building relationships with staff, students and their families.
“Education is not just about math and reading,” Zempel said. “It’s teaching students how to get along, respond and react to different situations.”
Zempel said he loves to visit with students he has previously taught and coached and staff he has worked with, comparing those experiences to a class reunion.
“I love watching students succeed, but that doesn’t always mean winning in the typical sense,” Zempel said. We see them grow emotionally, socially and academically, and we get to see that a lot in the classroom.”
Zempel reflected on the challenges of leading a small school.
He said those challenges are often different for teachers and administrators, but it ultimately comes down to pushing students and staff to excellence in all aspects of education.
“There’s a lot of unknowns. The principal job is intense,” Zempel said. “It’s rapid fire, and there are a lot of hats to wear.”
And Zempel has definitely worn his share of hats. Ranger sports fans have enjoyed Zempel’s commentary at football, basketball and wrestling events.
Zempel said one of his favorite yearly events at the high school is the Lions Club banquet at the conclusion of the school year.
“We get to see how students excelled in the year across the board,” Zempel said. “You look at the students getting recognized, and realize that our school really has a lot of different talents, whether in art, math, language or extracurricular activities. Seeing that variety of talents is a highlight of the school year for me.”
Zempel said his “retirement is not any more special than anyone else’s,” but he has enjoyed taking on the challenges of education and building relationships with students and teachers.
The principal discussed what makes education in Wyoming and in Lincoln County special.
“Wyoming is lucky to have lots of resources to devote to education,” Zempel said. “Our students are fortunate to have opportunities like the Hathaway (scholarship).”
He said that Lincoln County School District No. 1 consistently stands out from other school districts.
“There’s 250 kids in our high school and 30 staff, so we’re dealing with a lot of relationships there,” Zempel said. “When we visit with other districts we’re reminded of our successes. We’re on the cutting edge as far as curriculum.”
The principal said he looks forward to seeing the long-term results of the new 5-by-5 schedule the high school implemented this year.
“It will be exciting to see how students benefit from spending more time in their core subjects,” Zempel said.
The principal said the district is disciplined in working toward “purposeful goals” that make a difference in the students’ overall experience.
“That is evident at our strategic planning sessions, when we come together and really focus on our core values,” Zempel said. “Our staff is a group of strivers doing their best for these students.”
Zempel said he is eager to now enjoy the Wyoming outdoors in August and September.
“We’ll take more trips to the Wind Rivers, and float the Snake River, and see friends, kids and grandkids,” Zempel said.