Dave Radtke - Class of 2002
It’s August of 2014, David Radtke is sitting at the desk in the classroom where he teaches at Newman Catholic High School. He looks out on the school’s front lawn and sees the tree that was donated in honor of Mr. Stella, the husband of a beloved teacher. This tree holds great meaning for Dave because it was donated by the class of 2002, his graduating class. Sitting there looking at the tree, Dave found himself reflecting on the path his life had taken and how his family’s deep connections to Newman Catholic Schools helped shape his journey from student to faculty member.
Those connections began generations ago with Dave’s uncle, Ronald Gajewski, who was a member of the class of 1961. As part of one of Newman’s earliest classes, Ron graduated with great pride in his school and with a strong belief in Catholic education. Wanting similar opportunities for their own children, Ron and his wife chose to send Mike, class of 1983, John, class of 1986, and Therese, class of 1992, through the Catholic school system. The connection continued when Therese chose Catholic education for her own children, Sarah, Grace and Ava. In addition to the three generations on his mother’s side, Dave also had a cousin on his father’s side, Jessica (Lato) Steckling, who graduated from Newman Catholic High School in 1997.
Though Dave’s parents did not attend Catholic schools, witnessing their nieces and nephews have the experiences they hoped for their son, made sending Dave on the Wausau Catholic Schools’ (now Newman Catholic Schools) path an easy decision.
From the very beginning of kindergarten, Dave remembers feeling welcomed by the teachers and the principal, Mr. Dev Quandt. That comforting and loving feeling stayed with him throughout elementary and middle school and was solidified during high school when Dr. Beckman, NHS principal, made a huge impact on his life. During Dave’s senior year, his father was diagnosed with cancer which caused some financial hardship. As a student, Dave felt this most when he almost had to skip his senior retreat due to cost but Dr. Beckman ensured he did not miss out. Her only request, “You don’t need to repay it with money, just make sure to pay it back to Newman when you are able.” Dr. Beckman’s kindness stayed with him and helped shape his future. A future as a Newman Catholic Schools educator.
The kindness of Dr. Beckman and the guidance from teachers, especially Mr. Quandt and Mrs. Roxy Betchwars, influenced his desire to go into education and help shape students’ lives. What a perfect way to pay it back to Newman. Dave joined the Newman faculty in 2014 and spent two years in the classroom; even teaching one of his younger cousins, Sarah Sukanen, class of 2018. Though life took him away from Newman for a few years, he rejoined the Newman Catholic Schools team in 2021 as the IT Coordinator. The IT role has allowed him to stay connected with students and faculty in a creative and innovative way.
The best part of rejoining NCS is that Dave gets to play a role in his son's education; even attending weekly Mass with Robert at NCES: St. Anne. When Robert, class of 2033, was born, Dave and his wife, Iris, knew that they wanted him to receive a Catholic education. After experiencing such a positive journey through the Newman system, Dave wanted the same for his son. He wanted Robert to thrive in a caring environment where he would be more than just a number. They knew they made the right decision when they saw the absolute joy on Robert’s face when he learned that his dad attended kindergarten in the same classroom, and that two of his dad’s former teachers, Mrs. Stella and Mrs. Paprocki, still fill in as substitute teachers when needed. What a beautiful connection indeed!