First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?
I was raised in the Twin Cities and lived there until I came to Crookston in 1994. I had a wonderful childhood with caring parents and two brothers. I was involved in many activities as a kid, both sports and music, as well as things like student government. My parents moved from Crystal to Anoka when I was in the first grade, so Anoka is my hometown. It was a great place to grow up. We were just 25 minutes from Minneapolis and all it had to offer, but Anoka still had the small-town feel, with a Main Street and downtown area. I went through the Anoka-Hennepin school district and graduated from there. Then I went to Bemidji State for two years and finished my bachelor’s degree at St. Cloud.
I was lucky to get a job right out of college. My first three years of teaching I taught at the catholic school in Anoka and then for eight years taught for the Anoka-Hennepin school district.
I met Dave at a conference sponsored by Ed Mn called Think Tank 2000 for teacher leaders from throughout the state. The rest is history…. I married Dave in 1994 and have taught in Crookston ever since. Our kids Katie and Danny had an incredible childhood growing up in Crookston and were provided with so many opportunities as well as receiving great support from the community. Katie graduated from Augsburg and is now working for the Timberwolves and Lynx organizations and Dan graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus and is working for Digital River. They live about three miles from each other in Minneapolis. Dave and I enjoy visiting them and also traveling with them. The four of us always have a good time together. When I am asked what I believe are my greatest accomplishments, I always reply my kids.
Are you concerned about the teaching profession over the long-term? Not as a necessary, rewarding career field necessarily, but do you think it pays enough for a sufficient number of people to pursue teaching as a career?
Knowing everything I know about teaching after 37 years of teaching, I would still be a teacher today. I have always looked at being a teacher as my calling and not my job, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t worked hard to improve teacher salaries. Finances can be a problem for a teacher, especially a beginning teacher. Many teachers have accumulated great student debt and may have to work another job to make ends meet.
As a teacher I know that I would like to see salaries increased in order to attract young people to the profession, but that will only happen if the public wants to see that happen. Less and less people are deciding to come into the profession and that saddens me.
Also, because of the disparity of salaries between metro area districts and greater Minnesota districts we are seeing fewer and fewer applicants in greater Minnesota. I don’t think salaries are the only deterrent though. The responsibilities of teachers have increased ten-fold during my career and that has also been a reason for the decrease in those entering teaching.
I had a friend who shares different political views than I do tell me that unions are a “dinosaur” that need to become extinct? I’m assuming you disagree with that contention. Where do you think teachers like yourself would be without a strong union having your back?
I think often teacher unions and the purpose of teacher unions are misunderstood. Most people only think of the union at the negotiations table, but the union provides so much more than collective bargaining. I believe collective bargaining helps both teachers and the district. Can you imagine all teachers bargaining individually or separate contracts for each teacher?
Getting back to how teacher unions are more than negotiations. For example this past legislative session, a new requirement was added that in order to renew a teaching license, a teacher must do 8 hours of additional training in cultural competency. There were few trainings available in greater Minnesota and none offered in our area. The union came to Crookston and provided the training two days after school and 42 Crookston teachers were able to complete the training.
The teacher union provides professional development and training throughout the year and many teachers take advantage of that. Most often what the union is advocating for is for our students and what opportunities we can provide them. Being the union president in the Crookston district, I have been fortunate to work with superintendents and board chairs,, that work with the union to improve what our district provides for kids. That being said, we don’t always agree, but we usually find a way to come to agreement.
More than anything else, when you get home and tell your husband, Dave, about your day at school, what are three things that put a smile on your face?
Watching a student finally get a concept that he or she has struggled with and the sense of pride he or she feels.
Breaking through the walls a child has put up and knowing that he or she has learned to trust me and knows that I care.
Seeing life through my students’ eyes. For example the first snow through the eyes of the kids is exciting, wondrous and joyful, even if it is in October. None of them are talking about how early it is to be getting snow or complaining about having to shovel and so forth.
On the flip side of the previous question, what do you see, hear and otherwise experience in your classroom and school that concerns you more than anything else?
The trauma some of my students and their families have experienced and the fact that many people don’t recognize the impact this trauma has on them.
The times when not all my families and students have the same amount of advocacy or a chance to have their voices heard.
You’ve had experience with “looping.” Can you explain what that’s all about, and if you’re a fan of the practice?
I have loved looping. Looping is keeping the same students for two or more years. The parents have the choice to keep their children with the same teacher. Looping provides kids, families and myself with continuity and real time to develop our relationships. When we begin that second year together, we are already on the same page. My students and families know who I am and what to expect from me. I know my students, not only academically, but also as people: what their interests, fears, triggers and abilities are. It isn’t the first day of school that second year, but rather an extension of the previous year. There is not the transition that happens each year in a non-looping classroom. The kids become an even stronger unit or family with two years together.
At a recent online family meeting I asked my kids to compare their looping experience to those years they didn’t loop and all said if they could they would loop again. Looping provides stability for kids and the kids like that.
Do you have any skills and/or hobbies that are particularly quirky or unusual that might surprise people to know about?
I really don’t. My hobbies include playing piano, traveling and spending time with my family, so nothing very surprising.
One thing I did do this past summer in Key West was to parasail with Dave and the kids on our 25th anniversary. It has always been on my bucket list and I was thrilled to be able to do it. It has NEVER been on Dave’s bucket list, but he did it with me, so that made it even more of an adventure!
Let’s try a you’re-stranded-on-a-deserted-island question: You have an amazing home theater and audio system and somehow have all of the electrical power you could ever need. But you can only play three songs and watch three movies. Which three songs and which three movies do you pick?
I am not the music guru my husband is. I am all over the board and depending on my mood will find what I need in many diverse genres. Here is what I am going to go with though: Forever Young, Imagine and anything by the Eagles.
Movies - Schindler’s List (maybe this would be a bit of a downer though if I am all by myself) , The Big Chill and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. (My kids would probably say any Hallmark movie)
I’m not asking you to list your heroes, since that term is a bit too casually tossed around these days, but could you list three people you look up to or admire, and explain?
It may be a bit cliche, but my parents and my brother.
My parents are the parents all kids should have. They made mistakes, but they were always invested in my siblings and my lives and still modeled what a good marriage looked like and the need to take time for their own interests and friends. They taught us about the importance of family and unconditional love. They never missed a sporting event, music concert or anything else we were involved in. They pushed us to use the gifts God had given us, but were there when we fell or made mistakes. Without a doubt we knew that no matter what happened, our parents would be there. Then they provided all of this for our spouses and children as we grew older. There was always more love and support to give.
Many of you know that I lost my brother and mom a little over 3 and a half years ago. They died within four months of each other and it devastated my family, but with the strength of these heroes we have found a way to continue on. My brother Brian was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 47 and fought for 7 years, before dying at the age of 54, leaving his high school sweetheart wife and three sons. He never let cancer define him and even though he went through 4 brain surgeries, numerous different treatments, many never knew he had cancer until the very end. He continued to live life as the cancer wasn’t there. He taught my family what it meant to live for the moment and to get up when life pushed you down. He was humble, with a marvelous sarcastic sense of humor, so I am sure he is shaking his head that I named him my hero. He was only 11 months younger than me and growing up, I would not have called him my hero. HA!
My mom was the youngest 76 year old! When we would go shopping she would remind me to take the parking spot further away, so I would leave the closer spots for old people shopping. She was the glue for the family and the greatest care giver to not only our immediate family, but extended family, neighbors and friends. She was diagnosed with a rare cancer just a month after we we buried my brother and within 10 weeks she was gone. She never wavered throughout her illness and continued to teach all of us what it meant to have faith and a love for your family. My Dad lost a son and wife within four months and I was afraid he would curl up and die, but he didn’t. The days were long and often dark, but he continued on and pulled all of us along with him. Yes, they are my heroes.
Please describe yourself in 10 words or less.
Wife, Mom, Educator, Family-oriented, devoted, advocate, stubborn, sarcastic, passionate and involved