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After spending 40 years in education, Crestwood resident planning to retire

Joe Margraff of Crestwood is affectionately known as 'Mr. Joe' to his students.


For the Call

His students have affectionately called him "Mr. Joe'' for years.

For Crestwod resident Joe Margraff, who soon will end his 40-year career as a teacher, that nickname came about in a most unique manner.

"I told the kids that they could call me Sir, Mr. Margraff or Mr. Joe, but not just Joe," Margraff explained to the Call. "The reason why I told them that they couldn't call me Joe was because not even my wife calls me that."

He is the youngest of five children of the late Howard and Mary Margraff. His father was a driver for the Little Sisters of the Poor, while his mother worked as a cook at Dohack's restaurant.

He was drawn to the teaching profession while studying at Kenrick Seminary to be a priest. Had it not been for his sponsorship by the church to become a priest, Margraff believes that he would have not been able to receive the education that he did.

"They (his parents) wouldn't have been able to send me to college," Margraff said. "I wouldn't know how I would have done it, had I not gone into the priesthood."

Margraff eventually realized that the priesthood was not his calling, but he would become known for enlightening students from throughout the metropolitan area. His strong knowledge of Latin and social studies is what has become known as his trademark in teaching.

"The reason why I got my first assignment was because I knew Latin so well," Margraff said. "The last 10 to 15 years I have been teaching social studies."

His first teaching assignment was in 1959 at Corpus Christi High School in Jennings. He moved to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in 1962 and then St. Mary's High in 1966. Margraff taught at Lindbergh High School from 1976 to 1979 and left the teaching profession after the school district experienced a downsizing due to decreased enrollment.

He spent three years at Cass Transportation Services as the office manager, yet the teaching bug kept biting away and eventually called him back to the academic world in 1982 at St. Francis Borgia High School in Washington. Margraff then spent four years at the St. Louis Preparatory Seminary North before moving to Incarnate World Academy in 1987.

At Incarnate Word Academy, Margraff currently teaches advanced college credit courses through St. Louis University and the University of Missouri-St Louis.

His extensive knowledge of Western Civilization and American History have become valuable assets to his pupils in the classroom.

In fact, he's made such an impact on the learning experiences of his students that he was nominated in 1999 and 2000 for the Who's Who of American Teachers.

"My most memorable years have been at Incarnate Word," Margraff said. "It was exactly the right fit for me for the last 15 years. It's a different atmosphere and it was there that I became Mr. Joe."

Upon retiring after this semester, Margraff still will find himself in the classroom, but this time as a student. He hopes to increase his knowledge of finance along with taking some piano lessons. The avid fisherman and chess player is also a fan of the New York Times' crossword puzzle.

"I'm not really interested in being a greeter at Wal-Mart or asking if you want paper or plastic at Schnucks," Margraff jokingly explained. "I'm thinking that I'd like to take some classes in finance so that I can understand my retirement plans. I might also like to take a piano class because I like to play the piano by ear right now."

His teaching style is unique to many students as he tries to relate current topics to past historical events so that his students can grasp a better understanding of the world as a whole.

He refuses to inject his opinions about certain subjects as he lets his students develop their own opinions.

"I tell them that my opinions are my business," Margraff said. "I'm not the type of teacher who inflicts my own opinion on the students. I'm not there to give my opinion, I'm there to teach."

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