‘Enjoy those opportunities that are right in front of you’

Published 6:26 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Lake Mills coach, teacher happy to be back in the classroom, on the court after leukemia treatment

By Ayanna Eckblad

LAKE MILLS — Kyle Menke was thrilled to return to teaching fourth and fifth grades at Lake Mills Community School last week. The victory came after 11 months of treatment and recovery following a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia in April 2023.

His treatment included chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in September.

Email newsletter signup

During his treatment, Menke was unable to teach and coach the Lake Mills boys’ basketball team, something he had done since moving to the area 25 years ago.

“Basketball has been the sport I’ve been with ever since we moved to Lake Mills,” Menke said. “I love the classroom, and I love the difference between the classroom and coaching.”

Menke describes his months in treatment as a time of reflection and prayer in which he tried to do everything he could to become healthy and return to his students.

Although still unable to teach in the classroom full time, Menke was able to return to coaching basketball when the season started up again this winter.

“It wasn’t a for-sure thing that I would be able to coach this past year just because some of what I was dealing with health-wise,” Menke said. “It’s just a real blessing that I was able to get back by the time the season started and actually ended up coaching the entire year.”

Menke is a father of four, and his oldest son, Eli, is a senior this year. This is one of the major reasons Menke describes this year as his favorite season to coach. Another reason is that Menke’s health condition has given him a new perspective on life.

“The last 11 months have really forced me to examine a lot of different things, and one of the different things is absolute gratitude for the little things right now,” he said. “I have so much appreciation for every day and every experience that I get.”

He tries to instill this sense of gratitude in his students, both on and off the court.

“I think a common mistake that both kids and adults have is we get caught looking ahead so much and we’re always looking to what’s ahead,” he said. “And I really advise all student athletes to just really be present, be in the moment and enjoy those opportunities that are right in front of you and don’t take anything for granted.”

As the season comes to a close, Menke is excited to see what the future holds for Lake Mills basketball.

“We’re losing a great senior class, but we’ve got some really talented kids, hard-working kids, who are going to be filling those shoes,” Menke said. “We’re excited for the chance to help those kids reach their goals and keep our program strong.”

Because of the school’s small size, Menke has coached some of the basketball players since they were in second grade. Living in such a close-knit community has been a huge blessing to Menke and his family.

“This community has been incredible,” he said. “I cannot say enough about Lake Mills and just how amazing it really is to live in a place like this. The school and the community in general were behind me from the start, and they’ve just done so many things for me these past 11 months that have energized me and encouraged me and gotten me back on my feet … It is a true honor to teach and coach in this town.”