Mr. Seward: Kolterman's commitment to school and community awes peers, inspires students

Mr. Seward: Kolterman's commitment to school and community awes peers, inspires students

By Tyler Dahlgren
NCSA Communications Specialist

Clark Kolterman’s story is one of man and community, and it started over 100 years ago.

In his first life, as he likes to call it, Kolterman and his wife Linda ran a Ben Franklin store in Seward, which had been owned by his family since 1915. Clark and Linda were in their fifth-year of ownership when Walmart came to town in 1994, which forced the Kolterman’s to make a difficult decision.

“It was like selling the family farm,” Kolterman, who at the time was in his 40s, said. “I had to get another job. My wife wouldn’t let me retire.”

A graduate of Kearney State College, where he majored in business administration and speech, Kolterman was already a staple in the community, which he served relentlessly. Linda was about to make a suggestion that would spark the start of Clark’s second life.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you become a teacher?’,” Kolterman said. “We had six kids, and somebody had to be close to home. So I went to Concordia University (where he also earned master’s in education and administration) and got my education endorsement.”

Kolterman’s career change is one countless students that have walked the hallways at Seward High School ultimately benefitted from. A favorite amongst not only the kids at SHS, but his peers as well, Kolterman has spent the last 23 years immersed in an impressive myriad of extracurricular activities at the school. And his service to the town of Seward hasn’t wavered.

“His personality lends to relationship building,” said Seward superintendent Greg Barnes. “People just like the guy. I don’t know if there’s anybody that could not like Clark’s personality.”

The list of Kolterman’s involvements almost needs to be seen to be believed. It’s hard to imagine one man having such an immeasurable impact on one community. Barnes said the Kolterman family has been “a blessing to the city of Seward.” Principal Scott Axt talks about his tremendous passion and his fitting nickname, Mr. Seward.

“In my first life, I was real involved in the community because I had a business in the community,” Kolterman said. “In my second life, I just sort of continued that connection because high schools are communities within themselves. It’s really important that the community and the high school interact.”

Since the mid-90s, Kolterman has been building a bridge between the high school and the rest of the community. Thursday morning, he took his class of English 12 students to the county museum, a place most of them had never been. During the summer, he teaches a student enrichment class for 3rd-5th graders called “Secrets of Seward”, where he coordinates visits to interesting landmarks throughout the town, such as the attic at the Liberty House, or Seward’s first homestead on Highway 34.

“I have this van and I feel like I’m driving the magic school bus, taking these kids all over Seward and telling them the stories behind our town,” Kolterman said. “At the end, we talk about the brick streets and they each get a brick as sort of a graduation present.”

Kolterman’s enthusiasm never dwindles. Axt believes students see how hard he works for them, offering constant encouragement, and that his energy is contagious. It’s all one positive ripple effect.

“I marvel on the amount of energy that he has because he is so involved with school activities, from speech to one-acts to quiz bowl, etc.,” Axt said. “And yet I have not once seen Clark not excited for each day that he works with kids. He is truly a role model for teachers and he is so respected in the community.”

In fact, the Kolterman name in general is highly-regarded in the area. Clark’s twin brother, Mark, is a state senator. His mom, who was Miss Seward in 1948, remains active in the community, and was at the museum volunteering during the class visit Thursday morning.

“We have other people that are involved, too, but I don’t know if there’s an educator anywhere in the state that is involved in as much as Clark is,” Barnes said. “He’s a great example to our student body what it means to give back to your community.”

The respect between the students at Seward and Kolterman is mutual. This generation, the one that perceivably lacks in interpersonal communication due to a dependence on technology, draws Kolterman’s admiration.

“I have to admire them, because they have to do so much more,” Kolterman said. “Not only do they have to carry on a conversation, but they have to do all the technology and be proficient in that, too.”

It’s that mutual respect that opens the door for those strong relationships, which Kolterman has been developing and maintaining with students for 23 years.

“It’s that old adage ‘They don’t care what you know until they know that you care’,” Barnes said. “Students know he cares about them.”

The city of Seward knows, too. 

Kolterman’s Community Activities: Elected ESU #6, Two term Board President, Seward Chamber of Commerce-President 1981, Seward Rotary Club-President 1988, Seward Arts Council President and Chairman of the Board since 1981, Seward Fourth of July Celebration Chairman (three terms) and board member since 1969, Community Chair-Concordia Library Building Campaign, Concordia Centennial Campaign Committee, Seward Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival Planning Committee since 1999, Chair/President Seward County Visitors Committee since 1988, Seward County Community Improvement Chair since 2005, City of Seward Q125 Celebration Co-Chair, City of Seward/Seward County Sesquicentennial Celebration Co-Chair.