A more diverse teaching force

Lee Kempf, ’56, and Arly Kempf, of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, met while teaching at a school district in Michigan. They married a year later and continued careers in education. They hope their scholarship encourages diverse students to pursue a career path in education.

Retired educators start scholarship for multicultural student education majors

Students of color became the new majority in the nation’s public schools in 2014, according to government estimates. Yet, people of color continue to represent only a small minority of teachers.

Arly and Lee Kempf spent their careers in education where they noticed an increasingly diverse student body. At Madison Metropolitan School District, they saw firsthand the difference teachers of color had on students. For one, their presence helped students see teachers — often some of the first leaders and mentors in their lives — could be people from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They also provided important mentorship to students, they say.

“We saw the need for teachers of color — teachers who can relate to some of the students that we couldn’t reach, but they could,” says Arly.

The two wish the district could have attracted a more diverse teaching staff.

That’s why Arly and Lee started a UW-La Crosse scholarship that supports a diverse teacher workforce in the future. The Lee & Arly Kempf Scholarship, started in 2013, provides scholarships to multicultural UWL student education majors.

They hope their contribution encourages students to pursue and continue paths in education.

Lee and Arly went into education because they enjoyed making connections with young people and introducing them to new ideas. Both held careers in education for nearly four decades.

Lee transitioned from teaching to curriculum work and retired in 1993 as a learning coordinator at what is now Whitehorse Middle School in the Madison Metropolitan School District. Arly retired the same year as a librarian for the district. Their careers included a four-year stint teaching at a military base in Madrid, Spain.

They hope the scholarship will give more people the opportunity to enjoy the same career path.

“We need really good students going into education,” says Arly. “We felt we needed to provide support — as much as we were able to give.”

UWL memories

What Lee Kempf remembers most about his UWL days was the connections he made. The relationships moved from the basketball and tennis courts to his physical education classrooms. He still keeps in touch with some of those friends today.

Supporting urban schools

Lee and Arly Kempf also donated to the Milwaukee Urban Experience program, a partnership between UWL and the Center for Urban Teaching (CfUT). Through the program, a cohort of students will participate in an intensive, authentic learning experience alongside UWL faculty in urban schools this summer.