Westhoff bestowed with alumni honor

Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Julie Beitelspacher, left, and Debra Ahlers presented Kurt Westhoff with the Le Mars Community Schools 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award.

LE MARS — At the April 28 Le Mars Community Schools Foundation Banquet, Kevin Westhoff of Le Mars was formally recognized as the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award by the joint LCSD Foundation and Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Committee.

Westhoff is a 1982 graduate of LCHS and attended Westmar College and has taught at LCS since 1991.

Since then, his teaching assignments have ranged from high school PE classes, grades 9-12 health classes, head strengthening coach, and for the past six years in elementary physical education. His coaching duties centered on football, wrestling and track.

Westhoff was nominated by colleague Terry Fitzgerald. Westhoff currently teaches elementary physical education at the Le Mars Community District School.

Fitzgerald said in his nomination, “I have worked with Kevin for on to 28 years and during that time I was and still am, highly impressed with his dedication to his job but mostly to his students and athletes. He not only diligently works on the job but has also spent countless hours of his own time researching, attending clinics, conferences, and finding ways to enhance his lessons and practice plans with the pure goal of giving his students and athletes a more complete and fulfilling experience.”

He also stated, “in addition to his career, he also donates many hours of his personal free time to benefit the youth of Le Mars, Iowa. There is no more important hero than one who is committed to helping our young people become the best people that they can be.”

At the banquet, Westhoff said he was completely taken back when he was told of the honor.

"This announcement is very humbling to me. I have told many people that I am not a doctor, lawyer, inventor (looking at other people who have been awarded this honor). I am just a teacher/coach who tries to get students to realize that there is nothing wrong with a little hard work. That it is OK to make mistakes and learn from them," he said.

Had Great Role Models

Westhoff said it was his school physical education teachers influenced him to go into the teaching profession.

"I really admired my elementary PE teacher Eldon Clement, my junior high PE teacher Dennis Smith and my high school PE teacher Don Shilling. When I was in high school, having Shilling as a teacher/coach really sent me on the path to become a teacher/coach.

"During my classes at Westmar, I had the opportunity to work with Steve Shea at Gehlen Catholic. He took me under his wings and really taught me how a teacher can have so much influence on the lives of their students," Westhoff said.

"I would like to thank all the students who have challenged me to become a better teacher and coach, as well as the parents for trusting me with their children," he said.

Life Lessons

Westhoff had several points that he always wanted to teach his students beyond the classroom.

"In my teaching and coaching I wanted the kids to know they are allowed to make mistakes, and that I would be there to help them learn from those mistakes," he said.

He continued, "I will be here for them; what they do is important to me; to put others before myself; to develop a sense of loyalty; to discipline or to be disciplined; how to handle success and failures; and "That life is not always fair."

His students have taught him things and impacted his life, too.

"Because of the students, no matter what age, the students have taught me that my job would never be the same from one day to the next," he said. "The connections that I made then have turned into relationships now. Being able to see former students become productive members of a community brings me a lot of happiness. Having former student/athletes still keeping in touch, letting me know how they are doing with their jobs, families, and being invited to share important events in their lives means the world to me."

Many of the same ideas he used in the classroom spilled over into his coaching philosophy. He tried to instill in his athletes that they are held accountable for their actions and their choices.

He told his athletes they are allowed to make mistakes, and that they are going to learn from those mistake as to not repeat them, and learn from those mistakes.

"We are also going to work hard to prepare to minimize the mistakes that we might make," he said. "They also taught me to respect the game, the opponents win or lose, and the officials."

Active Beyond the School’s Walls

Westhoff has been active in the T-Ball and Little League programs in Le Mars and Remsen, from manager/coaching, All-Star coach, player rep, to board member. He has also coached the Le Mars Youth Football program and organized and ran youth football camps.

He also donates many hours of his personal free time to benefit the youth of Le Mars, according to Fitzgerald. "There is no more important hero than one who is committed to helping our young people become the best people that they can be," he wrote in the nomination.

How did the athletes change as they grew from Little League players to high school athletes, Westhoff was asked.

"One of the most noticeable changes is the amount of stress that many athletes have placed upon them. There is pressure to perform all over. Playing sports is supposed to be fun, but it seems somewhere along the way we have forgotten that," Westhoff said.

A Strong Foundation

For his own support, Westhoff looks to his family. "My wife, Mary, is my rock and my best friend," he said. They have been married 32 years and she teaches Algebra 2 at LCHS.

Their children are: Travis (Class of 2009), high school PE teacher/coach at Gehlen Catholic, his wife Sara, speech pathologist for AEA, and their children Brayden and Emma; son Tyler (Class of 2010), an elementary PE teacher/coach at Estherville Lincoln Central; Trevor (Class of 2015), head strength coach at Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools; and Tate (Class of 2020) a junior at the University of Iowa.

"My family has made me the person that I am today. Each person in my family is very unique and brings a different perspective to the experiences we share," he said.

Westhoff listed three things he wants his students to remember about him as a teacher, a coach and a mentor.

"I will be here for them; what they do is important to me; and, hopefully I treated them fairly," he concluded.

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