Sitting in a room artfully decorated with fall accessories as well as ever-prominent A&M gear, Yvonne Kaatz scribbles away, grading quiz after quiz. Her hair is perfectly done, her dress is wrinkle free, and her attitude is both humble and regal. Each of these small details shows something about her though, she is careful and calculated but kind and open as well.
Mrs. Kaatz has been teaching for a total of 27 years, split between Dripping Springs High School and Bowie High School. Originally she planned to be a veterinarian but after three years of college, realized her true passion lied in teaching. She had lead a freshman orientation at A&M and came to the understanding that she had found an hidden talent.
“I knew I wanted to teach when I was a junior sitting in biochemistry, and I knew I didn’t want to continue with that school and I also had been working with fish camp and I realized how much I loved fish camp,” Kaatz said.
When asked who had inspired her, not only in teaching but in life, Kaatz had quickly had two primary people in mind, both of which she knew personally and greatly impacted her life.
“My dad, because he was always teaching me to look after others and to stand up for people and to try to see the good in everyone,” Kaatz said. “Then when I was in high school, I had a nun—I went to Catholic school—who was an English teacher, and she really gave me my love for literature, but I didn’t know that until later in life.”
Though lovingly nicknamed “Nazi-Kaatzi”, it is clear that she has hugely affected many of her student’s lives. Throughout the years, she has received many emails detailing the ways she improved their writing which later lead them to be more successful in college. While she has powerful moments often as a teacher, there has been one specific moment in her career that she recalls very clearly. Even mentioning the encounter, brings the cool and collected woman to tears.
“So, it was a kid that I taught my second year,” Kaatz said, “and I was going into a pizza place to get something with my kids. I walk up to the register and I’m ordering and this guy comes out from the back and he goes, ‘Mrs. Kaatz!’ and I looked at him and realized it was Rodney. It had been several years, maybe 12. We start talking and he turns to the kid—he was a manager at the store—and he goes, ‘This is the woman who taught me how to write.’”
Teaching can often seem one-sided; however, Mrs. Kaatz sees it very differently. It is a passion of hers to shape young minds and to guide students onto the tracks to their full potentials. She sees the world as full of opportunity and gifts, and she tries to instill this view in her students, all the while, they teach her something too.
“My students have taught me how to have great joy in life,” Kaatz said. “I think that I feel young and I like being here because [they] energize me. I stay in it because I get so much out of it. I think it’s the energy of the kids and seeing y’all’s different passions is really cool. It’s so exciting for me to see people grow.”
Written by Clara Comparan