A classroom that is brimming with Packers memorabilia, social studies lessons based on facts about Packers’ players and writing assignments centered on game information are just a few of the ways that Pilgrim Park Middle School teacher Jeep Kust keeps his seventh-grade students motivated and engaged.
Students are welcomed into his class daily by a standing cardboard cutout of wide receiver Greg Jennings. There is a “Packers shrine” in the corner, and a bulletin board on the back wall covered in green and gold decorations created by the students. The school is located in Elm Grove, Wisc., which is about 15 minutes outside of Milwaukee.
“On the entire back bulletin board, I had my kids decorate paper helmets at the beginning of the year,” Kust said. “Right next to it is the Packers shrine. It’s a bookshelf with a Packers dish, yearbooks, just a wall of Packers’ stuff on a bookshelf.
It’s all connected to doing your best in class. I have two big posters of Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. I am what I am. I still like Brett. I know he’s gone, but he still brought a lot to the Packers after we were down for so long.”
A simple example of how Kust uses the Packers in his lessons is at the beginning of each year, an objective for the students is to know all 50 states and their capitols. Kust breaks the students into groups and targets learning the capitols by the states the players are from and the colleges they attended.
“We took the jersey number of each player and put it inside each state they represented, and that got us to 30,” he said. “The remaining 20 states that didn’t have any players on the roster were a leftovers test.”
His dedication isn’t limited to the classroom. Kust drives a green Honda CRV, and the vehicle’s spare tire cover is decorated with a large Packers’ G logo. It’s the same as the headrests on the SUV’s interior.
When the team loses, he goes into mourning for the following week.
“The kids all know I will come to school wearing black every day,” said Kust, who also serves as the school’s track coach. “Black shirt, black tie, black pants, black sweats – I’ve had to buy more black stuff at the beginning of every year. When they win I try to wear something with the Packers on it.”
Now in the middle of his third decade of teaching, the Packers have helped keep his lessons fresh. When he taught fourth grade, partly because of his uniform No. 4, Favre was a staple of Kust’s lesson plans in all subjects.
Kust grew up in Wes Allis, Wisc., and tries to make at least one game at Lambeau Field each season. He has two sons, the oldest a senior at Luther College and his youngest a junior at Wisconsin-Madison. Kust enjoys being known for his allegiance to the Packers, and when meeting with his new student’s parents early in the school year, Kust makes light of his loyalty to Green Bay, if only to a degree.
“There are always a select few Bears’ fans in the class,” he said. “I try to put everyone at ease. I might be a little crabby if the Packers lose, but if the Packers are in the Super Bowl, I will be happy for the rest of the year.”