Beloved kindergarten teacher leaves a legacy

As a kindergarten teacher for more than three decades, Jeanne Coppola’s mission was simple but powerful: Help her students discover a love for learning.

“It was important to teach subjects like phonics and math, and we did that. But it was also important to me for them to like school — because if they didn’t like kindergarten, they weren’t going to like the rest of their lives,” the retired teacher says with a grin.

Jeanne interviewed for a teaching job in Dyersville in 1970. She had never lived in a small town, and her intention was to work for a year and then look for another job. But while teaching her students to love school, she fell in love with the Dyersville community. “I love the town and the people,” she says. “So I thought I’d stay a couple more years, and pretty soon I was here for 35 years.”

She became a Girl Scout leader and joined the board of the Dyersville Area Foundation for the Future, which eventually became the Dyersville Area Community Foundation. Through her work with the Community Foundation, she learned that she could continue making an impact on Dyersville students even after her retirement — and long into the future.

In 2018, Jeanne started the Jeanne M. Coppola Endowment for Education. The fund will pay out annually, forever, keeping Jeanne’s legacy as a kindergarten teacher alive and helping Dyersville youth for generations to come. She plans to grant endowment payouts directly to teachers, helping them meet immediate needs they see in their classrooms daily — needs like books for students who don’t have many at home, an alarm clock for a child who gets ready for school on their own in the morning, even lunch money for someone whose parents can’t cover the cost of school meals.

“Education was good to me, so I want to be good to education; Dyersville’s been good to me, and I want to be good to Dyersville,” says Jeanne. “It feels good to be able to do something for teachers, who are already doing good for kids.”

To make your own contribution to education in the Dyersville area, contact Melissa Douglas.

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