Decades later, fourth-grade student and teacher reunite

Eighteen years ago, Phil Kiltie, a retired teacher in Alexandria, Minn., got a nice letter from Scott Lempka, who was once in Kiltie’s fourth-grade class, had grown up and become a teacher himself in Ohio.

Kiltie kept the letter. Teachers, we’re guessing, especially fourth-grade teachers, don’t get a lot of letters from their all-grown-up students.

It’s been 26 years since Kiltie retired. He moved to Parkers Prairie to be closer to his daughter, who found the letter not long ago, the Alexandria Echo Press reports.

She found Lempka on Facebook and sent him a message asking if his fourth-grade teacher had been Mr. Kiltie and if he was the one who wrote the letter back in 1999. She said her father kept the letter in a special place and would take it out and read it from time to time.

“It has always been very special to him,” she wrote in her message to Lempka.

Lempka confirmed he wrote the letter.

“It warms my heart that your dad has kept the letter and that it meant so much to him,” he told her.

Last week, teacher and student reunited.

Lempka isn’t in Ohio anymore; he’s the principal at a school in Elk River.

Lemkpa talked about bowling with dice and how Kiltie used to play football with his students at recess. Once, Kiltie selected him for a school project team.

“I remembered wondering why he chose me,” Lempke said, thinking that the job was supposed to go to what he described as the “better” students. “Looking back, I think he saw it as an opportunity to teach me respect, responsibility and self-confidence. His confidence in me challenged me to believe in myself.”

Lempka believed he was just an average to below-average student and that because he was in a lower reading group, he didn’t see himself as a successful learner. He didn’t believe in himself, he said.

Kiltie, however, said he never thought that way of his students. He believed each one of them had potential.

“When you would see the light bulbs come on for those students who were maybe struggling, you hoped you were making an impact on their lives,” said Kiltie.