Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 2, 2005

Several long-time HLWW teachers to retire

By Lynda Jensen

When gas was 36 cents per gallon, and Richard Nixon was president, a handful of teachers began careers that would span several decades with the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school district.

Dick Sonstegard, Carol Sideen, Roger Rosin, Dave Metcalf, and Linda Bleth will be wrapping up their careers this year, retiring after a combined 170 years of service at HLWW.

They will bid farewell to fellow staff members, and take with them memories of literally a thousand students.

Sideen, Rosin, and Metcalf are ending 34 years of teaching.

Some remembered funny stories about students or themselves.

Metcalf, who is leaving behind a formidable track record with the drama department as its director, recalled a humorous episode.

“There was the time that I noticed a great deal of sporadic giggling behind my back, as I stood on stage working with students in a scene,” Metcalf remembered. “I couldn’t figure out what the students were snickering about until I realized – for the first time ever – that I had a nervous habit of periodically flexing my butt muscles. Embarrassed? Oh yeah!” he said.

“I often got razzed for bringing a lot of boxes when I moved into Waverly in 1971,” Sideen recalled, who is well known for her mammoth collection of classroom materials.

She plans to bequeath some of her assortment of hoarded materials to other co-workers, and perhaps throw some away, she said.

“When I team-taught with Sue Winge, she would throw things away and I would take it out of the garbage, saying we may need it. Sometimes I was right,” she said.

Sonstegard remembers a funny moment as track coach, during the running of the 4 x 400 meter relay, the third runner from HLWW took the baton from a Litchfield runner, ran a lap, then gave it to the fourth runner from Litchfield.

Sonstegard coached for 36 years, and taught math or science for 38 years.

They will miss ‘light bulb,’ among other things

For most, the “light bulb” is what they will most the most – seeing a student understand and realize a concept for the first time.

“I loved seeing the sparkle in children’s eyes or ‘I get it’ when the words made sense, and they blossomed in reading or showed the love of reading,” Sideen said. She will be completing 34 years of teaching the first grade.

“I can think of no single highlight of my teaching career – each year, each week, each day holds highlights when you’re working with receptive students and see the light bulbs click on,” Metcalf said.

Eight times Metcalf led the HLWW one-act play to state competition – and this level of achievement was the ultimate success.

“That rush of gratification and pride in our students – your children – was indescribable,” he said.

Bleth described a sense of accomplishment with the successful “Opportunity Room” – a program designed to allow straggling students to catch up in math and reading.

In most cases, students improved by one to two grade levels in the Opportunity Room, Bleth said.

“It was extremely rewarding to see student succeed and feel confident about themselves,” she said.

Bleth is wrapping up 30 years working on the elementary and middle school level. She has also worked in special education.

The program was cut this year by the school district due to budget constraints, but may be restored next year when the levy recently passed kicks in.

For Rosin, the highlight of his teaching career is friendships made with both co-workers and students over the years, he said.

“I will miss meeting and working with people in the same profession,” he added. “They are all very professional and dedicated teachers, making learning fun and enjoyable to their students.”

“Also, the students themselves,” Rosin said. “Each one had and has their own personalities. Watching them improve and grow in their own abilities was a very rewarding experience. I feel I have gained many long-lasting friends from my former students. They are all special.”

Sideen also described the sense of accomplishment at seeing first graders grow into happy and productive adults, she said.

A highlight for Sonstegard was being awarded the outstanding educators award by the National Honor Society several times during the course of his career, as well as being named the head coach of the year by the Central Minnesota Conference in 2001 for his work with the Lakers’ track team. In 1993, he was also named the section 5A track and field coach of the year.

Lessons for life

Several of the teachers imparted words of wisdom accumulated from years of teaching.

“Life lessons, I think, are all hard,” Rosin observed. “To succeed, you have to work hard. Education is not easy or all fun, mostly it is hard work.”

Rosin noted the importance of post secondary education. “I feel you need some type of formal education after high school, not necessarily college, but some advanced training in an area that would interest the student,” he said.

“Take time with the children; read to them, tell them stories and do things with them,” Sideen said.

“Will it matter 100 years from now if the dishes got done or the floor is swept?” she asked. “The little ones should know that their parents spent time with them.”

Bleth noted the potential of youth. “Education of our children is everyone’s investment in the future. The youth of today are our most valuable resource – help to develop these resources to the fullest by investing your time, talents, and love,” Bleth said.

“Live each day to the fullest,” Sideen advised. “Life is too short to not take time to smell the roses. Enjoy the journey!”

Metcalf noted the value of leadership in the school district.

“Never under-appreciate the overwhelming impact of quality leadership,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf noted two people during the ‘70s and ‘80s who assembled a staff and quality programs that make HLWW “pound for pound one of the best in the state” – former principal John Scheveck and former superintendent Fred Nus.

“John Scheveck, as principal, led with authority, fairness and dignity,” Metcalf said.

“Students and staff alike appreciated the respect he gave them and they in turn, respected him. He was like the dad we all wanted to please, looking forward to that gratifying smile and sincere pat on the back,” he said. “He truly inspired achievement and excellence.”

“Fred Nus, as superintendent, was generous to a fault. He wanted so very much for our students, and never wished to deny them any educational opportunity. Under his guidance, some exceptional curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular programs were established, encouraged and nurtured until they flourished.

“Though the constraints of controlling the purse strings required that he make tough decisions, Fred Nus always did so with a ‘students first, education foremost’ attitude,” Metcalf said.

“I can’t adequately express to these two leaders how much I appreciate their positive influence and the opportunities they gave to me and to the students of this school district. Such quality leadership is rare and difficult to replace,” Metcalf said.

Retirement party

There will be a retirement celebration for Dick Sonstegard, Linda Bleth, and Roger Rosin Wednesday, May 4 at St, John’s Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall in Howard Lake from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

This will be given by the HLWW Education Association.

Dave Metcalf chose not to be recognized. Carol Sideen will not be retiring until November.

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