Editor's note: Concordia University Ann Arbor joined in the celebration of National Lutheran Schools Week Jan. 24-30, 2021. The annual observance invites schools across the nation to honor the teachers, administrators, and leaders who are furthering God's kingdom through their various ministries. To cap off National Lutheran Schools Week, we recognize two such teachers who are making a difference in La Grange, Illinois.

It didn’t take long for Holly (Johnson) Hackelberg (’80) and Renee (Rousselo) Hull (’80) to click. Once they met on the volleyball court within their very first days as Concordia students, they became fast friends.

From that day on, the two began to orchestrate ways to stick together. Efforts were made to work at the same summer camp or sync up their student-teaching placements, for example, but to no avail. The timing or circumstances never seemed to align, said Hull.

Forty-one years later, the lifelong friends finally got their wish. They are once again at the same school, this time as seasoned Lutheran school teachers. Hackelberg serves as first grade teacher at St. John’s Lutheran School in La Grange, Illinois, while Hull teaches eighth grade.

Once the two graduated from Concordia Ann Arbor, they moved together to Concordia Chicago to finish out their bachelor’s degrees. CUAA, then Concordia College, only offered a two-year program for teachers at the time Hull and Hackelberg graduated. After earning their degrees, the friends went their separate ways, but they managed to stay connected over the years, despite serving at different schools, sometimes in different states.

“Years would pass and we’d reconnect and it was like no time had passed at all,” Hackelberg said.

Various educators’ conferences provided opportunities to reunite, and they made a point of continually encouraging one another in their teaching careers. Their friendship stayed strong through their shared experiences in the classroom.

In 1994, Hackelberg received a call to teach at St. John’s. Twenty-three years later, a position opened up at the school and she reached out to her friend with the intent of offering the job to one of Hull’s sons. Little did the two know that their conversation would be the beginning of a 41-year dream being realized.

“God’s timing was very evident,” said Hackelberg.

The past year has presented its fair share of challenges for the veteran teachers. However, they managed to main their thankfulness through it all.

“We simply feel blessed to be teaching together,” Hull said. “We have many good memories to look back on, but we are still learning and growing together.”

It all began at CUAA with formative classes that gave them a solid foundation in the Word. Having that strong foundation has helped them stay rooted in God’s Word.

“After all this time, we still have an excitement to share the love of Jesus with our students,” said Hackelberg. “Sharing the Gospel message is what keeps us teaching in Lutheran Schools.”

If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.