Retired BPHS counselor still teaching


James Knapp

Mr. Knapp poses with some of his former Bethel Park students.

Since his retirement last spring from his 34-year-long career in education, 30 of which were at Bethel Park High School as a guidance counselor, Mr. Jim Knapp has been anything but retired.

When I first thought of retiring, I wanted to obtain or have a hobby. Then after discussing what a hobby is, I told myself my hobby for the last 34 years was dealing with people. Why change now?

— Jim Knapp








Starting in September, he subbed as a counselor at South Fayette High School for four weeks.

Now, he spends his free time subbing at multiple other school districts. He subs for grades K-12 at the Trinity Area School District, the Fort Cherry District School District, and the Bethel Park School District.

“When I first thought of retiring, I wanted to obtain or have a hobby,” said Mr. Knapp. “Then after discussing what a hobby is, I told myself my hobby for the last 34 years was dealing with people. Why change now?”

Mr. Knapp also spends his free time learning how to fish and hunt from former BPHS football Coach Jeff Metheny. He has also begun umpiring for a 10-and-under fast and slow-pitch softball league.

Although, he says that the most gratifying rule in his retirement is taking his grandson to school.

Mr. Knapp plays table football with his grandson Lucas. (James Knapp)

Mr. Knapp worked as a career counselor at Point Park University earlier this year and now works as a counselor at the Beaver County Career and Technical School.

“As a retiree, in my first seven months, I think back what else would I like to accomplish–there is one area I would like to return to and that is college academic advising,” said Mr. Knapp. “I enjoyed most of all my relationships as a high school guidance school counselor. But when I started out, when I knew I wasn’t going to be that elementary school teacher, I wanted a career in higher education. I believe I want to finish up as an advisor or career counselor.”

Mr. Knapp is one of Point Park University’s newest faculty members. He serves as a career counselor at the university. (Point Park University)

Mr. Knapp moved to Bethel Park from Crafton, Pa. during his sophomore year of high school in 1976.

He then graduated from BPHS in 1979 and then in 1992 decided to return to his alma mater to become a counselor there.

Mr. Knapp was inspired by his role model and neighbor Mr. Larry Mickey, a former guidance counselor at BPHS, to pursue a career in counseling.

“He was the most significant influence on me,” said Mr. Knapp.

Also, during his time at BPHS, Knapp was an office helper in the guidance office.

“I became what I was in my ‘dream job’ as a counselor at BPHS,” said Knapp. “I now look back and realize I was ‘job shadowing’ while I was in high school. A ‘shadowing’ experience allows you to see firsthand as that professional. BINGO. At first, I still wanted to become the Jim Nance of broadcasting; however, I chose a life less glamorous and I benefited from the experience.”

After graduating from BPHS in 1979, he attended Ohio University first majoring in radio broadcasting, wanting to pursue a career as a sports broadcaster. After a year, he decided to change his major to elementary education, then changed his school to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

After graduating from college, before he became a counselor at BPHS, Knapp was also a counselor at Butler HS/Ford City Jr./Sr. HS/Western Area Career and Technology Center and one year at North Allegheny Sr HS. However, once he got his job at Bethel Park, he knew that this was where he was meant to be.

“The school was his life,” said current BPHS counselor Mr. Mike Bruce. “He was kid-focused all the time. He was made to be a high school counselor. Anything he could do for kids outside of the normal school day, that’s what he was. He wanted the kids to succeed all of the time.” (Paul Paterra, Observer-Reporter).

“I look back on my last 34 years and think, I am thankful for my whole experience. As you age,” Mr. Knapp said with a laugh. “I reflect back on my years at BPHS and the community. I am thankful for my entire Bethel Park experience – from 1976 until 2022. What a ride!”

“Mr. Knapp was a special person who not only grew up and went to school at Bethel Park but dedicated his life to helping students as a school counselor and coach,” said BPHS principal Mr. Joe Villani.

“My thought process was how can I improve the kids I’ll be working within their lives,” said Mr. Knapp. “For example, the lesson plan might call for a reading. I think to myself, how can I read or direct them in ‘How to write a goal?’ This way, if I teach them early on in their lives, they can develop that skill to begin their post-high school careers, even if they are first graders or 9th graders; it is the concept I want them to grasp and utilize.”

Mr. Knapp said that his favorite thing about working at BPHS was “working in a positive and friendly environment that BPHS provided. That included everyone in the building—my coaching career during my 34 years was gratifying.”

During his time at BPHS, Knapp was the girls varsity basketball assistant coach for 23 years and the head coach for three years. In his last eight years of coaching, he coached for the 7-8 Independence Middle School boys and girls basketball teams. Also, from 1992-1997 he was the varsity assistant softball coach. Lastly, he coached powder puff football for ten years.

Mr. Knapp, however, says that his most gratifying coaching experience was coaching the middle school boys and girls basketball teams.

“That’s where you really teach everything,” Knapp said. “It, by far, was my best coaching job ever. I’ve coached at a lot of places and had a great experience in coaching, but the best was that middle school because I could work with both boys and girls and I could teach the fundamentals. I’ve enjoyed coaching my entire life.” (Paul Paterra, Observer-Reporter).

“I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Knapp as a coach in middle school and as a counselor in high school. He was so invested in my development as a student and athlete and was always willing to help. I’m grateful to have had Mr. Knapp as a resource over my middle school/high school years,” said 2020 BPHS graduate Ryan Meis.

Meis is currently a junior at Seton Hill University where he is the starting guard for the men’s basketball team.

Knapp says that he has learned a lot from his time counseling students, but the most fundamental thing that he has learned is how to be a good listener.

In general everyday living, listening is a skill that most people think they are a good listener, but we are not. Listening is an art. To be a good listener, you must have time. With time you must slow down and practice listening. Role play is a good technique for listening.

— Jim Knapp

Mr. Knapp believes that in order to be a successful and impactful counselor/communicator, you have to be involved and stay involved with your kids and always be available to listen.

One student in particular who Mr. Knapp had a huge influence on was 2021 BPHS graduate Jonathan Traud.

“Mr. Knapp was always trying to help someone no matter what time of day it was,” said Traud. “He inspired me to do better with my life. In high school, I wasn’t really going to pass and get my diploma but with Knapp’s help, he pushed me in ways I didn’t think someone could. I honestly have no idea how I would have made it through high school or this far in life without Mr. Knapp as my mentor and person that I looked up to.”

Jonathan now works for a construction company that works on remodeling schools.

Jonathan’s mother Mrs. Laurel Traud is also grateful for all of the kindness and persistence Mr. Knapp showed her family.

“Mr. Knapp made a tremendous influence on our family for many years throughout his time at Bethel Park,” said Mrs. Traud. “The most notable was during the pandemic when our kids were struggling both emotionally and academically. Mr. Knapp did everything he could to get them through such a difficult time and we will forever be grateful for the patience, kindness, and respect he showed to us and many other families over the years.”

Knapp believes that his most effective method of counseling was to play therapy and role-play with his kids.

“As a counselor, I believe you must establish relationships,” said Knapp. “Once you have a student’s trust, they will tell you about anything. One technique I enjoyed doing was when a student would not open up at once while talking; I would take that student and walk with them around the indoor track of the HS gym. It was very effective.”

Mr. Knapp was such an involved counselor and helped everyone he could.

“As a professional, I could see when a student would need my services,” said Knapp. “I used to have kids come into school by 6:30 a.m. to talk with me about their issues. When I was coaching up at IMS after school, I would have seniors bring in their applications and paperwork for scholarships, or I would be accessible to and for the kids.”

2019 BPHS graduate Alex Mullen said: “Coach Knapp is truly a one-of-a-kind person. From being my basketball coach in eighth grade to my guidance counselor at BPHS, Coach Knapp shaped me into the man I am today. His door was always open, and he always put his students and players first.”

Mullen is currently a senior at Westminster College. He owns his own auto detailing business called AM Mobile Detailing.

Coach Knapp is truly a one-of-a-kind person. From being my basketball coach in eighth grade to my guidance counselor at BPHS, Coach Knapp shaped me into the man I am today. His door was always open, and he always put his students and players first.

— Alex Mullen, '19

Mr. Knapp wishes to tell students and people that are struggling right now that setting goals and organizing are great ways to overcome hard times and internal battles.

“I have discovered that goal setting is an art, and it takes time to practice in this area,” said Knapp.

“He did a lot to help kids with careers,” former BPHS principal Dr. Zeb Jansante said. “We started sending kids to another vocational school where we hadn’t typically sent kids because Jim reached out and found a program that wasn’t offered with our vocational school. He really went above and beyond. Kids were really the center of his focus.” (Paul Paterra, Observer-Reporter).

Mr. Knapp stands with BPHS senior Lily Puskar at Western Area Career and Technical School. (jimmyknapp1979)

Mr. Knapp said that what he learned from working at BPHS is “what a great community Bethel Park is and how to develop relationships.”

While he is enjoying his retirement and making new hobbies, he will forever miss Bethel Park and the people in it.

“I do miss the relationship with the staff and faculty at BPSD,” Knapp said. “I miss coaching in the school, and of course, I miss seeing and working with the students I worked with who are 12-11-10 current graders since I had already worked with them.”

Mr. Knapp is very proud of all of the things he did and the people he helped during his time as a high school counselor. He is specifically very proud of his involvement with The Bethel Park Community Foundation.

This foundation gives deserving Bethel Park seniors thousands of dollars in scholarships.

“I was active with the Foundation in awarding these scholarships and raising money for the foundation,” Knapp said. “Two scholarships I was most proud of were The John Deans Memorial Scholarship and The Michael J Furey Scholarship.”

These two memorial scholarships are in memoriam of a highly respected teacher and coach from Bethel Park.

The John Deans Memorial Scholarship is awarded to one special education student who wishes to pursue a trade/technical education or a 2-4 year school post-secondary school. This scholarship has been in existence since 2002 and has raised over $20,000.

The Michael J Furey Scholarship is awarded to a special education student who is going into the trade/technical field. This scholarship has approximately $13,000 remaining.

Mr. Knapp and the rest of the members of The Bethel Park Community Foundation have tried to give an MJF winner $1,000 per year and John Deans winner either one or two $1,000 awards.

Another rule besides counseling that Mr. Knapp is proud of during his time at Bethel Park is his involvement with The Bethel Park American Federation of Teachers (BPAFT).

“As a former President, Vice President, and Treasurer, I had the pleasure of working with many wonderful people in negotiating teacher contracts and help support the secretaries and paraprofessionals,” Mr. Knapp said about his former activity.

One of his rules as Vice President of the Union was to select a committee to distribute two-three $1,000 scholarships for any BPAFT member’s children. If there were no children of teachers that qualified for the award, it was then opened to any senior going into the education field.

“He was the go-to guy for what young men or women needed when they were interested in getting a college scholarship,” Coach Metheny said. “He mentored so many young men and women to put them in the right position to be successful. It was truly amazing to watch. The school district is definitely going to miss him. The kids are going to miss him.” (Paul Paterra, Observer-Reporter).

Although Mr. Knapp achieved a lot during his career at BPHS, he has to say his greatest accomplishment in life is “Being a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle and loving every minute of a great life is my proudest and most rewarding story I can tell.”

Being a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle and loving every minute of a great life is my proudest and most rewarding story I can tell.

— Jim Knapp

While he called his career in counseling a hobby he was partaking in for the majority of his life, after his retirement he realized that making and maintaining relationships is his hobby.

“I will continue with my past 34 years of relationship building,” Knapp said.

“What stands out the most about Mr. Knapp’s career, was how current and former students always share how much of an impact he had on their lives, and how he would always go above and beyond to help them,” said Mr. Villani.

“Mr. Knapp was a great mentor to any student at BPHS during his time there. He was especially helpful to student-athletes transitioning from high school to college because of his in-depth knowledge of the NCAA athletic and academic regulations,” said 2022 BPHS graduate Riley Miller.

Mr. Knapp had an extraordinary impact on many kids’ and educators’ lives during his time as a counselor. The current/former students and staff of the Bethel Park School District will forever be thankful for his commitment and dedication to this community and the generations he has touched.