Shannon Kluppel, M.D.

Baytown Sun Article

Widower donates educational material

Published October 29, 2006

When Ashbel Elementary School pre-K and kindergarten teacher Lynn Kluppel died suddenly at age 45 in 2003, she left a lasting memory for her students, co-workers and family.

Now, thanks to her husband, her life’s work will be preserved for Goose Creek students for years to come.

Dr. Stephen Kluppel, a Baytown pediatrician, recently donated a wealth of educational materials his wife had amassed over years, first while working with the private KinderCare organization and later with her 14 years of service at Ashbel Smith.

The Goose Creek board of trustees voted unanimously Monday to accept the collection, which Kluppel estimates is worth $250,000.

At his railroad depot-themed office in Baytown, Kluppel said his wife originally went to Texas A&M to study engineering. But after spending some time in the field, she took a job in a day care center, and found her life’s calling.

After completing an education degree at the University of St. Thomas, she began working for the KinderCare organization, ultimately becoming its regional director for the southwestern United States.

Kluppel said it was while with KinderCare that she began using her own money to buy materials for her classrooms. As he describes it, teachers in the company were often assigned to classrooms with little actual learning materials to work with, forcing them to buy their own.

The couple had known each other while growing up in the Spring Branch area, and married while he was in residency. After he began his practice in Baytown, she was able to spend almost her entire salary on educational materials.

Lynn decided she would rather be in the classroom than be an administrator, so she took her first job in public education in the Aldine school district. She later worked in Pasadena, but Kluppel said his wife “hated the tunnel,” and switched to the Channelview district.

Finally, an opening in the Goose Creek district, for a third grade teacher at Ashbel Smith. While she preferred working at the pre-K and kindergarten level, she took the job. A couple of years later, she moved to teaching pre-K and kindergarten.

Lynn Kluppel didn’t give up buying her own materials and packaging them into teaching “units” – based around themes like the oceans — that she could use for a few weeks and then easily store. The units include multiple copies of the same books, as well as “manipulatives,” items that small children can handle to help them learn new concepts.

The collection grew so large that it took up a large portion of their family’s home.

Dr. Kluppel said his wife, who had long suffered from asthma, was so passionate about education that she often didn’t look after herself. That, in part, contributed to the respiratory illness that took her life.

“She just never stopped,” he said.

Soon after her death, Kluppel decided that the best thing to do with her vast collection was to donate it to the Goose Creek school district.

The donation started small, with the furnishings materials that remained in her classroom at Ashbel Smith.

Later, a Goose Creek teacher helped organize just one of Lynn’s units, the one based on oceans. The process took weeks, said Karen Coffey, the district’s director of intervention programs.

It seemed that organizing the entire collection might be prohibitively time-consuming, but a solution recently presented itself.

The district is going to take possession of the entire collection, which takes up a large part of Kluppel’s home as well as some storage space he leases from the North Alexander Drive campus of San Jacinto Methodist Hospital. From there, it will be shipped in manageable units to Lee College.

Susan Precht, an instructor in the college’s teacher education program, plans to use students in two student groups she advises, as well as work-study students, to catalogue and inventory the materials. An electronic database will be created, including digital images of each item, that the school district can then use in its own data management system.

Precht’s students will then divide the materials into their own units, based on what is “developmentally appropriate” to the age range. That will help them in acquiring skills they’ll need when they begin teaching, she said.

“It gives them hands-on experience in designing teaching units,” she said.

Precht said the process of cataloguing and inventorying all of the materials could take three years.

“I’m really exited about it. I walked out of (Monday’s) meeting and I told Dr. Kluppel, ‘You realize I’ve reached the level of being officially overworked,’” she said.