Lac du Flambeau Public School recently lost a beloved member of its staff after short battle with angiosarcoma cancer.
In a small room in the middle of LdF Public School, a group of staff members gather to remember John Lohoff. Physical education teacher Jennie Harrington, guidance counselor Suzi Hartzheim, school psychologist Katie Panske, social worker Jennifer Schill and director of special education/school psychologist Trish Teichmiller all worked closely with Lohoff and remember him fondly.
Lohoff began his LdF Public School school counselor career in 2005 after receiving his master's degree from UW-Oshkosh.
In the 12 years he served as a school counselor, he positively impacted every staff member and student he interacted with.
The short battle began when Lohoff slipped and fell on the ice in January, knocking him unconscious. Lohoff thought the pain in his knee and vision problems were related to the fall and concussion he received.
"He talked to a few other staff members who have children who have had concussions and said 'how long did it last, how long did these symptoms last?' because he just couldn't get over it and then he started doctoring with his knee," Harrington explained. "It kind of happened fast after that fall."
The March after his fall, he had to stop teaching after receiving his cancer diagnosis.
Even through his pain, Lohoff managed to incorporate his personal struggles into life lessons for his students.
"When he fell at the beginning of last school year he wasn't able to see very well, the lighting was impacting and he used that story to teach about discrimination," Panske explained. "So he was like, 'Should I wear these sunglasses? Because it's going to help me be able to see or do you think I should just keep them off because people might think I'm strange wearing these sunglasses inside?' and all the kids chanted 'put them on, put them on' and he wore them around the school. So, he used his life experience to communicate which I think is just a really powerful thing about him."
"The kids felt like they knew him as a person, not just as the counselor," Teichmiller agreed.
The staff remember Lohoff as an incredibly caring person who took time to listen to everyone. Whether it was allowing a student's cat to stay in his classroom or making sure the wood pens he created were working properly, Lohoff was attentive and caring.
"One of his students brought their cat to school and there was a miscommunication about it but he didn't have the heart to let them know so there was like a cat in his room ... John just took care of it," Panske said fondly.
Panske brought up Lohoff's love of wood carving and the room was filled with fond laughter.
"He had an Etsy account and he would give us pens," Panske remembered. "He made the pens out of really nice quality wood and for like Christmas gifts, or like any type of gift. Sometimes some of us would buy them like shaver handles, coffee scoop things. But I remember I'd be writing with my pen and he'd be like 'so how are you liking that? How is the equipment working on it?'"
"He was always like, 'If anything's not working on it or you need a new point ... you just let me know.'" Harrington added.
"Or he'd be like really in tune to like 'I noticed you haven't been using the pen, is everything OK with it?'" Panske laughed. "Just super attentive."
Lohoff's caring personality was specifically showcased in his bully awareness initiatives.
"John was very passionate about his bully awareness initiatives," Harrington expressed. "He truly cared about how other people were treated throughout his entire life. This is a theme that has transferred to many of our students here at LdF."
How he will be missed
It is hard for those who were close to Lohoff to find words to adequately express how he will be missed in the Lac du Flambeau community.
"I think the connections he had made with students and families over the years is the biggest loss," Teichmiller expressed. "You can't replace that."
"The relationships he built and the kids that really depended on him and counted on him as a trusted person within their circle," Schill said wistfully.
Panske said his "dad role" to the staff will be sorely missed.
"Even with all the stuff he had going on personally in his own life he always took time to listen to everybody," Hartzheim reflected.
As well as the staff, the students will profoundly miss Lohoff. Lohoff specialized with third through eighth grade, but still interacted with most of the students.
One sixth grade student said, "He's like a best friend who solved problems when you're mad or sad."
"Whenever I would get mad he would tell me to go in his room," another sixth grade student said. "We would play silent ball and bring us McDonalds. And we were close friends. I would eat with him and when it was time to go he'd tell me to leave. He was really nice to me. He treated me like a nephew."
"I liked when he passed the ball around and we had to say stuff based on where our thumb landed," a third sixth grade student remembered. "I liked talking. He was sort of like a dad."
A common theme throughout the staff remembering Lohoff was the abundance of stories they had about him.
"There's so many, it's hard to pick a favorite," Harrington expressed.
"I'm going to miss just being able to say 'See ya later, Lohoff!' at the end of the day and then he'll say 'See ya, Panske!'" Panske exclaimed.
"And the radio calls, Mr. Lohoff to Mrs. Lohoff," Hartzheim said, earning a laugh from the entire room.
Schill said her favorite stories involved just talking to Lohoff.
"He was kind of just a point person to talk to and good to listen," Schill said.
"I really liked seeing his truck pull in every morning," Panske expressed. "He was really proud he had a truck. He has five women in his family and to have a truck ..."
The others voiced their agreement and laughed about how excited he was to have a truck after having family vehicles for such a large part of his life.
Harrington said some of her fondest memories were those of how excited he got when staff members would bake for him or hearing his laugh from down the hall.
"He loved it when we would bake for him or bring him treats that he knew he wasn't supposed to have," Harrington reminisced.
"I think I'm going to miss the lunch groups," Teichmiller said. "He would leave the doors open because it was less formal and there were boys coming in and out and just having a really good time with him, just feeling comfortable enough, students that weren't maybe comfortable with others were so comfortable with him. It was a room that was alive during those lunch hours."
Honor pow wow
During Lac du Flambeau Public School's monthly pow-wow today there will be a moment of silence honoring Lohoff's service to the school and community. The pow-wow begins at 2 p.m. and is open to the public.
Students and staff are also encouraged to wear Brewers or Rams apparel to school on Friday, as those were Lohoff's favorite teams.
Abbey McEnroe may be reached via email at email@example.com.
Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2017
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As good as teacher as John was, he was an even better person. John will be dearly missed by many!