After 40 years of teaching, KO bids farewell to one of the community’s most impactful faculty members, Spanish teacher and Archivist Brenda Semmelrock, who plans a retirement dedicated to service and family.
Mrs. Semmelrock studied at the University Connecticut where she received her B.A. in education and minored in Spanish. However, her teaching career began much earlier in her elementary school days. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher in second grade, believe it or not,” Mrs. Semmelrock said. “I have had amazing teachers that I remember fondly and that I still look up to. I remember having little chalkboards and getting workbooks to bring home, and so I held class for all my friends in my neighborhood.”
While she had no prior experience with private day schools, Mrs. Semmelrock first came to KO in 1982 when she heard about an opening from a friend. Since then, Mrs. Semmelrock has become the cornerstone of the Modern Language department, teaching several sections of Spanish each year. Mrs. Semmelrock was also the recipient of the Collins Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008.
“I think throughout all the years I’ve been here, my favorite part [of being at KO] would be the amazing colleagues that I’ve worked with,” Mrs. Semmelrock said. “The amazing students and advisees I’ve had have been like a family to me. Even now, I still have many friends and advisees that I’m still in touch with.”
As a teacher, Mrs. Semmelrock has had a positive impact on all of her students. Sophomore Olivia Reynolds is especially grateful for Mrs. Semmelrock. “In my time with her, my knowledge of grammar and vocabulary has increased tenfold,” Olivia said. “More importantly, I’ve grown a deeper appreciation for Spanish culture. I’ll always remember Roberts 225 as a room full of bright colors and great experiences!”
Mrs. Semmelrock’s knowledge and guidance have also been instrumental to her advisees, including seniors Rohan Naik and Marwynn Somridhivej. “Her overwhelming support for her advisees to pursue their own future is an amazing gift she possesses,” Rohan explained. “She’s also a very caring adviser; she wants to know what you’re doing and cheers you on in any way possible.” Marwynn said he feels the same. “Her honesty, along with her kindness and energy are some of her most defining characteristics,” he said. “She’s also very knowledgeable and always happy to recognize students for their accomplishments.”
Other than teaching and advising, Mrs. Semmelrock has been involved in nearly every facet of the KO community, and her impact is certainly felt today. As a coach, she has worked with both the JV girls soccer team as well as the Middle School basketball team. Mrs. Semmelrock has also played a critical role in creating several programs that still exist at KO. With former math and computer teacher David Mellen, she started the robotics team, which currently competes in the international FIRST Robotics Competition. In 2000, she also started the Venezuelan host program at KO with former Spanish teacher Erika Costantini after being inspired by her own trip to South America. Mrs. Semmelrock is also the President of KO’s National Cum Laude Society and has served as the community’s archivist since 2012, which she plans on continuing part-time.
In the future, Mrs. Semmelrock plans on spending more time with her newborn grandson Connor and her son, Matthew ’05. “It was a really great experience being able to teach my own son for two years,” Mrs. Semmelrock said, reminiscing. “One of the highlights was when he became a prefect and actually imitated me in the prefect skit using glasses and a wig!”
Mrs. Semmelrock plans to keep up with her Spanish and stay connected to the Spanish community. She currently also volunteers at cat shelters and is eager to dedicate more of her time to community service.
“I will certainly miss the everyday relationship I have with people at KO,” Mrs. Semmelrock said. “I love the people I work with, and seeing and talking to the students around campus. I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet, so you’ll certainly see me around at concerts and sporting events. Once a Wyvern, always a Wyvern.”
Mrs. Semmelrock has made a significant impact on the KO community, and her vibrant passion, excitement, and dedication will certainly be missed. Thank you for all you’ve done, Mrs. Semmelrock, and we wish you the best of luck in the next chapter of your life!