Dedicated teacher Helen Winkelmann makes lasting impression on all
By Lauren Bly, Women’s Center Correspondent
Every day, students are listening to and learning from instructors from all academic disciplines. Every day, there are
students who spend hour after hour exchanging information with teachers both inside and outside of the classroom, but that by no means makes those discussions ordinary or insignificant. It is not every day that one seemingly simple gesture—an encouraging word or a reassuring e-mail—inspires a student for the rest of his or her life. It is not every day that those instructors are recognized for making such a profoundly positive impact on their students and most of the time those teachers do not even realize the full extent of their influence. Their commitment to pedagogy is a way of life rather than an occupation and often they are so humble when their exceptional work receives well-deserved time in the spotlight.
Helen Winkelmann is one such teacher. She has been a Senior Biology Lab Instructor at the College for “decades,” as she puts it, but after growing up in New York City and earning her M.S. at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Winkelmann did not intend to end up in the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. However, after her husband, John Winkelmann, was offered a full-time teaching position at the College, Winkelmann realized she had to leave the city behind.
“In that time, many, many years ago, you left. You went where your husband went,” she says. Winkelmann joined the Biology Department’s part-time faculty, which, at the time, was entirely comprised of women. While Winkelmann regrets the fact that she was not able to further her degree, she admits, “You can’t have it all…you can’t be a full-time wife, mother and employee. You can’t have two full-time careers.” With four kids to raise and a passion for teaching, Winkelmann realized that Gettysburg College was the happy medium she needed. Furthermore, though Winkelmann was not able to finish her doctoral degree, she has since inspired numerous students to pursue advanced degrees in the field of science.
Sara Marian Seibert, ’06, one of Winkelmann’s former students, came to Gettysburg with the hope of becoming a doctor, but she was apprehensive about taking genetics and questioned whether or not she should declare a biology major. Winkelmann offered her guidance and assured Sara that she was more than capable of rising to the challenge. Now, Sara Marian Seibert goes by Dr. Sara Marian Lucking, as she went on to earn her doctorate after finishing her undergraduate studies at Gettysburg College. Dr. Lucking and Winkelmann still keep in touch and recently the Seibert family, including former trustee Attorney Jean Seibert, ’69, established the Helen J. Winkelmann Scholarship in Winkelmann’s honor. “It’s a wonderful honor to say the least,” says Winkelmann.
The scholarship is awarded to deserving students (preferably biology students) who show financial need and scholastic achievement. In 2009, Melissa Weisbach was the first recipient of the scholarship, followed by Caitlin Hoy in 2010 and 2011 and Katherine Mersch in 2012.
“I think it’s very important to get to know your students…no question about it,” says Winkelmann. “Sara Marian is a perfect example of that.”
When asked what her favorite aspect of working in the lab is, Mrs. Winkelmann did not even hesitate: “The students…every year.” Her emphasis on creating a friendly laboratory environment for all students and her dedication to learning about her students’ interests while she teaches her own illustrate her commitment to serving the community.
“You’re not quite sure, no matter what you’re doing, whether somebody in that room is going to be affected.” Clearly, many of Winkelmann’s students have been affected by her thoughtfulness and kindness, and the Helen J. Winkelmann Scholarship is a testament to her monumental impact on Gettysburg College students and her commitment to excellence. In regard to the scholarship and her students’ admiration, Winkelmann humbly states, “You can’t pat yourself on the back for that. You can just simply do what you think you should be doing and be so grateful when it turns out so beautifully.”
Winkelmann’s perspective is refreshing, but she does “great work” at Gettysburg College and therefore she deserves to be recognized.