Eileen Harper, a kindergarten teacher at Holy Sepulcher School, goes over a lesson with students last month in her classroom. Harper is retiring at the end of the school year after 23 years of teaching at the school. She calls the students and friends at Holy Sepulcher her “second family.”
MIDDLESEX TWP — Many people can think of a favorite teacher, the one who influenced them long after their time in the classroom was over. For many students who attended Holy Sepulcher School, 6516 Old Route 8 North, Eileen Harper is that unforgettable teacher. However, Harper has decided this year will be her last year at the front of the class. She will retire Friday at the end of the school year. Harper has been a teacher at Holy Sepulcher School for nearly 23 years, starting as an aide, teaching classes throughout the school. After two years of being an aide she became the kindergarten teacher. Harper said it is wonderful to see the children’s progress throughout the year. Seeing their growth in reading and their excitement when it comes to learning has helped make Harper’s job that much more enjoyable. Her journey with her students does not end when they graduate from kindergarten. Harper also organized the children for their first Eucharist and is there later when they are confirmed into the church. She was on the committee that started the St. Francis Award at Holy Sepulcher. The award recognizes students at the school for their kindness to others. “She is the most incredibly kind and caring person, and I hope to someday be half the woman she is,” said Sami Melaragno, who graduated from Harper’s kindergarten class in 1995. “She was and is still an inspiration to learn about everything I can,” Melaragno said. “Because of her I have a unique thirst for knowledge.” Harper has touched the lives of many students along with their parents. “I have seven children, she has taught all my kids,” said Ann Schratz, who is also an aide in the kindergarten class. In Harper’s class you are not just her student, but also her friends, Schratz said. “The thing that she does best is develop the whole child,” Schratz said. While she loves her “second family” at Holy Sepulcher, Harper has decided it is time for a new phase of her life, not an easy decision for her. “I have prayed and discerned about this for months,” Harper said. She knows this is her time to leave her role as “Mrs. Harper, the kindergarten teacher.” She said her favorite part about being a kindergarten teacher has been watching them grow, and the spontaneous “I love you, Mrs. Harpers” that she would receive during class. Though Harper is ending her teaching career, she will not be forgotten by the children who she taught. “She has touched the lives of kids that will forever remember her and her teachings. She inspires students from the joy she brings to the classroom” said Vanessa Inks, a student from Harper’s first kindergarten class. “Her faith and devotion to Holy Sepulcher has touched the lives of so many students that will be forever grateful for the positive impact she has made on their lives,” Inks said. Harper said she will be welcoming a grandchild in July. She is looking forward to the time spent with her family and seeing her second family, the Holy Sepulcher parishioners, in church.