No matter the season, it was always winter in Keith “Bonn” Bonnstetter’s room. Not just because the temperature was constantly frigid, but because his carefully crafted snowflakes and random Christmas decorations reinforced the festive and wintery mood.
Bonn was a colorful person, he was full of life and saw the good in everyone he met.
“In my perspective, Bonn’s gift was that of flavor. His was the first classroom in the hallway, bedecked with colorful artifacts, full of Bonn,” said Stacy Hornbuckle, former BHS English teacher.
After meeting Bonn once, people knew he had a big heart and a colorful personality. Bonn had a tendency to be overly energetic in the classroom, which he often blamed on his daily coffee intake.
“He brought such a unique, creative energy to the classroom and made a genuine connection with each and every one of his students. It didn't matter who you were, or even if you took Spanish or not, Mr. Bonn was someone you could always come and talk to, to brighten your day,” said Charly Erpelding.
Everyone knew Bonn’s name because he had a reputation for being outgoing, funny and friendly. He could often be found outside his class, socializing with peers and students, trying to make a positive impact on someone’s day. Making paper snowflakes was his creative outlet and one way he made people smile.
“One time when I was upset, he made me a snowflake in the middle of class because he said he didn't want me to leave class without smiling. He was a great teacher, but he wasn't just focused on curriculum; he wanted to make sure we understood real life applications of what we were learning,” said Kayla Petry.
He had a knack for making people laugh, and for making people feel comfortable in his class. Even as a serious Cubs fan, Bonn always found humor in everything he did.
“On the first day of class, when I told him that I was a Royals fan, he automatically started making fun of me and joking around,” said Katelyn Rahe.
But as fun loving and outgoing as Bonn was, his passion for the craft of teaching could not be denied.
“He was one of the best teachers I've ever had; he encouraged uniqueness and kindness from his students, while also encouraging a strong work ethic and respect,” said Annika Skogman.
Bonn was committed to helping others. Every Christmas, he would organize gift donations for families in need. He was involved in the Hunger Drive each year, and one year he had to put on a small presentation. He took the "JuJu on that beat" challenge. He learned the dance and words and performed it in front of a class and on video. Katherine Hansen, BHS science teacher, said that it didn't matter what the challenge was, Bonn always strived to be the best. His desire to be the best, brought it out in others as well.
“Bonn and I pushed each other to be better because we were both competitive; we both wanted to be the best teacher, not only in our department, but in the state,” said Spanish teacher, Cristina Zimmerman.
Bonn’s passion to be the best was recognized by more than just the high school. In 2013, he was named the Iowa World Language Association’s Educator of the Year. Yet, no amount of awards could sum up his professional dedication, which was evident in all areas of his teaching.
“Bonn could grow students in their writing like no one else could. I still marvel in how his students used conjunctions so well. He could take an article and stretch it out for a whole block, by pulling out grammar points or by using interesting questions. He was not conventional in his teaching but what he did worked for not only him, but the students he served,” said Zimmerman.
There was nothing conventional about Bonn. Perhaps nothing is more evident of this than the snowflake covered door to his classroom, which would remain no matter the season. The snowflakes hanging from the ceilings and the walls of the building are a constant reminder of the mark that Bonn left on Bettendorf students and staff. And just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike, there will never be another teacher and friend quite like Bonn.