Jim Knapp enjoyed his profession so much that he called it "his hobby."
He recently retired from that hobby after 30 years as a school counselor at Bethel Park High School.
"I loved doing what I did," Knapp said recently. "I was just advising kids on how to help themselves. My job, my goal, my hobby was to help them help themselves, and I did it through advising and counseling."
During those 30 years, the South Strabane Township resident helped kids in many ways, but mainly by simply listening.
His listening methods included engaging in activities such as table football or checkers with the students.
Or he would go on walks with them, offering a chance to vent.
"I did whatever it took to get it to where I could listen to them," he said. "It really was great because it got them out of the counseling square-walled area and gave them a chance to walk and talk at the same time."
Knapp, who turns 61 in August, worked in other school districts including Ford City and North Allegheny as well as at Western Area Career and Technical Center in Canonsburg, where he also served for a number of years on the board of directors.
But the goal for the 1979 graduate of Bethel Park High School was to get back to his alma mater.
Those who worked with Knapp said his loss will be felt in the district, as he always went the extra mile to help students.
Michael Bruce, who is in his 26th year as a counselor, said Knapp always had snacks at the ready for a kid that may have been hungry or gave them money for lunch if they needed it.
"The school was his life," Bruce said. "He was kid-focused all the time. He was made to be a high school counselor. Anything he could do for kids outside of the normal school day, that's what he was. He wanted the kids to succeed all of the time."
Jeff Metheny, a retired teacher and former high school football coach at Bethel Park, worked with Knapp for about 25 years.
"He was the go-to guy for what young men or women needed when they were interested in getting a college scholarship," Metheny said. "He mentored so many young men and women to put them in the right position to be successful. It was truly amazing to watch. The school district is definitely going to miss him. The kids are going to miss him."
Dr. Zeb Jansante, assistant superintendent, touted Knapp's ability to get kids connected.
"He did a lot to help kids with careers," Jansante said. "We started sending kids to another vocational school where we hadn't typically sent kids because Jim reached out and found a program that wasn't offered with our vocational school. He really went above and beyond. Kids were really the center of his focus."
Knapp's involvement with the Bethel Park students also included coaching. He was the head girls basketball coach for three years, as well as an assistant for many years. His involvement with girls basketball dated back to his time as a Bethel Park student, when he served as the team's scorekeeper and manager.
What seemed to bring him the most joy as a coach was his time spent with the middle school boys and girls basketball program.
"That's where you really teach everything," Knapp said. "It, by far, was my best coaching job ever. I've coached at a lot of places and had a great experience in coaching, but the best was that middle school because I could work with both boys and girls and I could teach the fundamentals. I've enjoyed coaching my entire life."
Even though retired, Knapp won't be taking it easy. He'll be a substitute teacher at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Washington and will be working a couple days a week as a job coach for ARC of Pennsylvania in Canonsburg.
There is another task he will be undertaking.
"I'll be taking my grandson to school," Knapp said. "That's something that I really wanted to do. He'll be going into second grade. I'll drop him off and then I'll head to JFK or ARC and substitute and work."
Knapp is one of 27 retirees from the district at the conclusion of the 2021-22 school year - including 12 professional and 15 support staff employees. The retirees represent more than 534 years of expertise and experience.
Those honored with Knapp at a luncheon in June are:
- Mark Graham, bus driver – 8 years of service
- Judi Kosanovich, health and physical education teacher – 33 years
- Linda Kountz, bus driver – 19 years
- Maria Leonard, world languages and cultures teacher – 21 years
- Tricia Moury, music teacher – 22 years
- Paul Novak, library media specialist – 28 years
- Dr. Janet O'Rourke, assistant superintendent – 22 years
- Ella Pysola, library aide – 23 years
- William Ranegar, head custodian – 9 years
- George Reganick, custodian – 6 years
- Doris Sharkey, bus aide – 11 years
- Patricia Talerico, bus aide – 8 years
- Myrna Thomas, health and physical education teacher – 30 years
- David Cheeseborough, lead mechanic – 40 years
- Nancy Clements, computer paraprofessional – 19 years
- Mark Dubuch, bus driver – 20 years
- Paula Gouirand, bus driver – 28 years
- William Herman, bus driver – 11 years
- Nancy Keane, bus driver – 20 years
- Patricia Luptak, school nurse – 4 years
- Mark Render, attendance coordinator – 30 years
- Terrence Spitznogle, technical education teacher – 30 years
- Lori Sutton, director of special education – 18 years
- Patricia Talerico, bus aide – 8 years
- Christine Williams, first grade teacher – 21 years
- Marilyn Williams, bus aide – 15 years.