Alleman teacher marks 50 years in Catholic education

ROCK ISLAND — It wasn’t a rock star that brought the students from Alleman High School to their feet for boisterous cheers and applause at the end of a Catholic Schools Week Mass on Jan. 26, although it was obvious that they think Deacon Philip Sailer rocks.
Their joyful tribute was part of the celebration of Deacon Sailer’s 50th anniversary of teaching in Catholic schools. A banner in his honor hung in the school gym during Mass and Colin Letendre, principal, presented a certificate to the longtime educator and coach while the students offered another standing ovation.
Adding their voices were students from Jordan Catholic School in Rock Island, Seton Catholic School in Moline and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in East Moline, who joined the Alleman students for Mass.
The celebration continued in the teacher’s lounge, where a cake was waiting for Deacon Sailer to cut and share with his colleagues.
His anniversary almost passed quietly, because he has been at Alleman for 46 years. It was his first four years as a teacher at St. Edmond’s High School in Fort Dodge, Iowa, that brought Deacon Sailer to this career milestone.
“I was honored by it — tremendously honored by it,” he said of the recognition by the Alleman community. Students continued to offer their congratulations as he walked down the hall after Mass.
It doesn’t seem like it’s been 50 years, he told The Catholic Post.
“It’s gone by so fast. The further I go the faster it goes,” Deacon Sailer said. “Time flies by.”
Since 1962 he has taught history, government and geography, and coached football, wrestling and girls track at Alleman. After earning a master’s degree in counseling from Western Illinois University in 1974, Deacon Sailer served as a counselor in addition to teaching.
For a time he also taught at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and was the defensive coach for the football team there.
At 65, however, he started talking about retirement.
“They looked at me kind of funny and said, ‘OK,’ he recalled. “That lasted about a month. Then they called me in and asked if I would help out with the religion department.”
Newly ordained to the permanent diaconate in 1997, he was told, “We need you.”
Deacon Sailer said he told Letendre, “Let’s try it for one year.”
That was eight years ago.
His grandchildren also made it difficult for him to leave Alleman, telling him he couldn’t leave while they were in school there.
With a busy schedule at Alleman and at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island, where he serves as a deacon, the 76-year-old said, “I don’t think I’d want to be any busier than I am now. It’s draining a bit and the days are long. But at the same time it must be pretty good for me because I’m rarely ill.”

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