St. John’s Starts School Year With New Staff


For the past 5 years, Albert Karnopp had been the principal and upper grades teacher at St. John’s Lutheran School in rural Goodhue but has now handed the reigns to Joel Pankow.  After a long wait and many attempts to fill the recent pastoral vacancy, the congregation was relieved when Pankow accepted the first call they issued.  Joel’s wife, Christine will be teaching Preschool and taking on secretarial duties left open with the departure of Sandy Karnopp and Jessie Holst.  Also new to the staff is Julie Pasch who will teach Kindergarten through second grades.  They join Sue Zabel who has taught at St. John’s the past six years. 

Al and Sandy Karnopp

Al and his wife, Sandy who taught Kindergarten, first and second grades at the school, headed to Albuquerque New Mexico shortly after a farewell program held at St. John’s on June 26th.  This will not be a great change as the couple will be moving back into the house they still own there and lived in when Al previously taught at Shepherd Lutheran.  This time, Al will assume the principal’s position at the same school.   Although Albuquerque is a much larger city and it is 400 miles to the next closest Wisconsin Synod school, the congregation size and school enrollment is similar to St. John’s Goodhue. 

They say they have missed the warmer, drier weather and authentic Mexican food and are excited to return to the area where their two grown daughters still live.  This is not to say that they did not feel at home in Goodhue.  Sandy grew up in Arizona where her school principal was Goodhue area native, Willis Hadler.  In 1991, she was assigned to student teach at St. John’s and found herself teaching the children of those students upon her return to the school.  She recently celebrated her 25th year of teaching and says she enjoys watching children learn to read and comprehend. 

Sandy met Al, who grew up in Wisconsin, when they were both students at Dr. Martin Luther College (DMLC) in New Ulm, Minnesota.  In addition to Minnesota and New Mexico, the Karnopps have lived and taught in Colorado and Wisconsin.  They expanded the music programs at St. John’s and loved to see the students’ enthusiasm for new experiences such as the chime choir they started.    They say they especially enjoy watching children grow and change whether it is physically, emotionally or spiritually. 

Joel and Christine Pankow

The son of a minister, Joel was born in Seattle, WA but considers Wisconsin home.  He attended DMLC in pursuit of a teaching career and like Al Karnopp, it was where he met his future wife.  Christine was raised in Delano, MN where her parents made sure she and her siblings received a strong Christian education. The Pankows spent 33 years in Lansing, Michigan with Joel serving as the school principal for the past few years.  The Michigan congregation was large and offered childcare and preschool but economic hardships have reduced the grade school enrollment to around 60 students. 

While Lansing was making a slow recovery, Christine lost her father, and her mother’s health was failing.  She had flown from Michigan to Minnesota five times in a short period and felt that Joel taking the position in Goodhue might be just what they needed, saying, “It was God’s doing to bring us here”.  Like Sandy Karnopp, Christine was not unfamiliar with the area, having taught at St. John’s school in Red Wing from 1989 to 1991.  She taught two more years, then became a stay-at-home mom to their three children, now grown and living in Texas, Georgia and Michigan.  She later worked at a chiropractic office and although she taught Sunday School in Michigan, she says returning to teaching feels like a whole new venture.

Moving to Goodhue will bring Joel closer to his sister in Eden Prairie and allow Christine to more easily help care for her mother who currently lives in Brainerd.   Between the Karnopps departure and the Pankow’s arrival there was little time to make improvements to the principal’s residence located across Highway 4 from the church and school.  Christine says, “It was like one of those TV shows” where a whole crew comes in and updates the floors and bathrooms and landscaping. They love the home’s large kitchen and look forward to having plenty of space for her mother to stay with them as needed and to welcome visits from their children and one-year-old granddaughter.  Christine enjoys photography and using her photos to create greeting cards.  She has taken some stunning photos of the sun rising behind the church and school and enjoys walks and living in the country.  Joel enjoys watching soccer and being included in the church’s family nights.  The couple enjoys meeting new people and say they already feel welcome in their new community. 

Julie Pasch

Tom Pasch moved to the Red Wing area when his job relocated him to the Red Wing branch of Merchants Bank as market president.  Tom moved from Watertown, WI to the Red Wing area in December, 2021 while his wife, Julie and their four daughters stayed behind until June, 2022 to finish the school year.  Julie thought the move would allow her to take a break from teaching and be a stay-at-home mom.  That plan changed when the call came to teach Kindergarten, first and second grades at St. John’s.   As she considered the offer she thought, “I’m here and I have the ability.  I love teaching; it was hard to say no. ”   She consulted her daughters before making the final decision.  Did the girls, who range in age from 5 to 13 and will be attending St. John’s, want Mom to be home or at school with them?  They all agreed on school and now Julie is busy preparing her classroom for the first day on September 6th.

The Pasch family enjoys downhill skiing and water sports, tennis, volleyball and traveling.  Julie considers Watertown home but says she is excited to be here.  Like the Pankows, she feels welcome saying, “People are reaching out and taking us in.  We are invited to something at least once a week.” 

The three new staff members will be leaning on veteran teacher, Sue Zabel while they settle into their new rolls and classrooms at St. John’s.  Zabel and her husband have four grown sons and live in the Lake City area where he is the principal at the Lutheran school. 

St. John’s is part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) but welcomes all children in grades pre-K-8.  There are currently three non-member families with four children attending the school. The total enrollment is 43 plus four preschool children.  They have a working relationship with Goodhue Public School on busing, school calendar, hot lunch and participation in sports and music.  For more information, go to their website or call 651-923-4773.


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