As students head back to the classroom, let's honor former Owensboro kindergarten teacher Judy Kapelsohn. Benham Sims and his son Stephen recently caught up with Sister Judy for a glorious reunion.


We all can say that we've had a special teacher that touched our lives. The one-of-a-kind teacher who showed extraordinary patience. Someone who was a great listener with a friendly smile. A teacher who went the extra mile and made us feel special. I had a few teachers with those attributes that I'll cherish forever. I wasn't an easy student. I liked being silly, talked a lot, and had trouble concentrating in class. I was fortunate that some of my teachers found it endearing. The teachers that embraced my "quirks" and showed empathy will always have a place in my heart. Do you have a favorite teacher?

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Owensboro native Benham Sims has a favorite teacher. Her name is Judy Kapelsohn. Sister Judy taught kindergarten at Owensboro Catholic and left a lasting impression on her former students. Her teaching went beyond the material taught in the classroom. She helped inspire dreams and prepared students for the future showing love and grace along the way. Benham Sims, and his son Stephen, recently got to visit Sister Judy at the Carmel Home in Owensboro.

Benham Sims
Benham Sims

What Makes Sister Judy So Special?

Benham Sims shares why Sister Judy holds a special place in his heart. Why he's never forgotten about the teacher who made an impact on his life.

"She was so sweet, kind, and good to me when I was a child. She was my favorite teacher and it is easy to explain why.

She took a special interest in me because when I came to school on my first day, my older brother David had to come with us because he was Down Syndrome and there were no available babysitters that morning. Her compassion and empathy were always her guiding values.

The year was 1966 and I started kindergarten when I was 5 years old. Later on that first week, she noticed I was struggling with an assignment, I was younger than most of the kids in my class because my birthday was mid-November. Sister Judy came over and looked at my work and smiled that beautiful, loving, and reassuring smile of hers. Her smile did not come from her mouth but from her eyes, her eyes actually sparkled. She began showing me how to print I assume some letters, and she too made a mistake (Or did she?). She looked at me again, smiled, then she looked away and covered her mouth and looked back, and whispered to me, “I made a boo-boo!”-I started laughing and so did she. That was my first personal interaction with a teacher. Mistakes can be funny, boo-boos. Adults make boo-boos too! Boo Boos are funny, they are to be laughed at-not to be feared. Can you think of a lesson more valuable for a 5-year-old? She was small, we saw eye to eye, and I did not have to look at some giant adult.", Benham Sims explained

Ms. Judy taught all 3 of our children. They loved her! She gave me some great words of wisdom that I share every now and then and it still makes me chuckle. She said, “I won’t believe anything they tell me if you don’t believe anything they tell you.” You just never know what will come out of a child’s mouth, so she was so right. - Maria M. Hoesli

Benham Sims
Benham Sims

Valuable Life Lessons Learned

Benham shared how what he learned all of those years ago, still helps navigate him throughout his life.

"We also had a blind "French" nun. Here I was with Sister Judy and a blind Nun. What a wonderful lesson of laughing at mistakes, and that even people with perceived handicaps, who were different than me, can be giants in teaching not just academics but life lessons! As an aside, my law partner was Judge David Holton, one of only two blind judges in the United States. What better education could I have received at 5 years old than the life lessons of these two giants in the world of teaching and loving?

Though she was tiny she was a giant. How about that for another lesson to learn so young? While I was raised Presbyterian, I was impressed with Sister Judy’s courage to protest for Peace even at great cost. I may be Presbyterian by birth, but Sister Judy ensured my heart was Catholic. The role of man is to serve. And boy did she ever serve.", Benham went on to share

I moved from Owensboro in 1972 but never forgot the lessons of Sister Judy-who loved me unconditionally. My mother continued to write Judy for decades.

Benham has a way with words. He went on the explain how the life lessons he was taught helped him throughout life's ups and downs. He shared what it was like to come back to his hometown and meet with others that helped to shape his life. Push below to read the rest of his inspirational story.

Thanks for sharing your story so eloquently. Judy was my kindergarten teacher as well. She’s always had a big smile and a kind heart. She’s made a wonderful difference in the lives of many. - Julie Clark

Benham Sims/CANVA
Benham Sims/CANVA

Sister Judy Remembered

Benham isn't alone. When he posted his tribute on the History of Owensboro Facebook Group, memories came flooding back. Many former students shared memories of their time with Judy. I wish I could have had her as a teacher growing up. She sounds like an amazing, selfless, caring, beautiful, friendly, and easy-going teacher and friend.

Here are just some of the tribute messages that were shared.

Ms. Judy was my kindergarten teacher too. Such a wonderful teacher and beautiful person! - Dona Daugherty

I had her in kindergarten! She’s a very special lady! She's one of the reasons I became a teacher. - Katie Bartlett Pagan

Ms. Judy!!!! Seriously one of the sweetest people that ever walked this earth. - David Madewell

I didn’t have her for Kindergarten but she arrived a few years later at my school.
Such a Wonderful lady. Truly loved her students! - Angie Murphy Rice

I loved Ms. Judy! I had her and Ms. Margie as my kindergarten teachers at St. Pius X. - Laura Rowley

I loved sister Judy! She's a very sweet and beautiful person. I have thought about her a lot. She was a good teacher. Sister looks like she always did. Thanks so much for sharing! - Brenda Cooper

Ms. Judy!! She was also my kindergarten teacher at St. Angela Merici! She was so great and would never forget a former student's face!! She definitely holds a special place! - Stefanie Belew

My youngest daughter had Ms. Judy for kindergarten at Blessed Mother. She was a good teacher.- Lauren Day Orth

To know her is to love her! - Kathy Aud Wilson

Wow, Judy taught my son in a pre-school class. She came into the home to teach a couple of times a week. Would love to see her again. This would have been app '77 or '78. - Vicky Canarie Jasper-Parker

I love Ms. Judy, she’s a very special person who taught my son. I am very happy to see this update on her and especially the pic. Thanks so much! - Beth Ebelhar

Miss Judy was Garrett’s kindergarten teacher. She is one amazing teacher! - Sharon Hibbard Franklin

Thanks for posting this. I went to kindergarten at OCHS in 1970. I wouldn’t have remembered her name. I just remember her as the Little Sister. - Anne Wathen

Miss Judy also taught my son in a pre-school class. She came into the home to teach a couple of times a week. Probably around 1977 or 1978. She is the sweetest person I know. I would run into her over the years and she would always remember our names and details about our time together. Amazing lady!!! - Cindy Mulligan Stallings

I had her for CCD classes when I was a kid and she was still a nun. Both my daughters had her for Kindergarten at St. Angela Merici. - Lisa Ballard

Miss Judy is a treasure! - Carm Leonard

She was also my favorite kindergarten teacher but she also was my next-door neighbor when she was with the nuns in the big house next to the high school! - Jay Stewart

Ms. Judy was my kindergarten teacher too. Such a wonderful teacher and beautiful person! - Dona Daugherty

Were you blessed to have Judy as a teacher too? What are some of your fondest memories? Benham Sims, thank you for sharing your journey with us!

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