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John Konrath wipes the slate clean

June 2, 2008

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

Delano Public Schools is the home of the Tigers and also the home of John Konrath’s lengthy teaching career.

Over the past 35 years, Konrath has watched many students move on, become adults, begin careers, and start families.

Beginning in 1973, as a social studies teacher, Konrath then became the high school librarian, a position now known as media center specialist.

After growing up in Sandstone, Konrath attended St. Cloud State University, where he decided to follow in his older brother’s footsteps by going into teaching.

His brother was eager to offer advice, and told Konrath that anyone could go to college if they put their mind to it.

“I took that advice, but only the first part,” Konrath said with a laugh. “I forgot about putting my mind to it, and in the beginning, when I saw my grades, I realized I had to work harder.”

After playing high school football, he enjoyed being a part of the college football team, as well, where he admittedly rode the pine a lot.

“In college, I was a wide receiver and played on special teams, but there was one guy who could run the 40 in about 4.5 seconds, and my best was 4.9 – he was too much competition.”

Things were going well in college; he was working hard, and his grades had improved, when he received a notice from the draft board during the Vietnam War. Thus, his college career was put on hold while he spent two years in the Army.

After eventually graduating from college, Konrath attended some grueling teaching interviews in the metro area. One day, he received a message from Delano Schools.

First, he called Orono Schools, thinking he must have heard the message wrong because he hadn’t applied at Delano Schools.

It was, in fact, Delano Public Schools that had called him and requested an interview after finding him through the college placement office.

He still chuckles when he recalls that interview. The superintendent at the time asked him if he had played football at St. Cloud State University with Earl Bauman.

When Konrath answered “yes,” he was handed a piece of paper and told it was his teaching schedule.

“That was it,” he smiled. “I was told I could take a walk around the building, and that is how I started my first and only teaching position.”

During his first year at Delano, one memorable experience still brings a smirk to his face. Staff at the time had heard rumors there would be a streaker. Konrath had hall duty with fellow teacher Dick (R.T.) Traen.

Out of the boys’ bathroom came a young man wearing only boots and a ski mask. Konrath tackled the masked student, and once in a nearby classroom, Traen removed the ski mask. Immediately after his identity was revealed, the streaker bolted from the room, Konrath recalled with a laugh.

Konrath acknowledges he may be one of the few high school librarians who also coached football – a seemingly odd combination.

At one point, Konrath thought he may have found a new career, and took a leave of absence from teaching.

A good friend of his suggested he come and work for Panasonic.

“He told me Panasonic had come up with something that was going to sell like hot cakes,” Konrath said. “Electronic memory typewriters were going to sell like hot cakes, and well, they did for about a year before the well went dry.”

Once back at Delano Schools, Konrath was involved in many changes that enabled the library to become the media center it is today.

“John served as media director during a time of major change in education. He bridged the gap from print to the electronic versions used today,” said former Delano High School Principal Ted May. “This transition required an overhaul of how students accessed media services. John’s efficiency and eye for detail made the conversion a smooth process. He was trained in the traditional role of librarian, and he also led students and staff into the computer age.”

The biggest change Konrath feels he has seen involves students doing reports and research projects.

In past years, students spent the majority of their time gathering information, but now the presentation is where most effort is spent. More information can be found in less time, and programs such as Power- Point have become popular for presenting reports.

“Technology,” he thought aloud. “If I were 30, instead of 60, I would probably be more into that change.”

While speaking of his age, he quickly announced that the process isn’t pleasant. Having a home with 182 feet of lakeshore in Waverly, yard work presents a bit of a challenge to him now. He does, however, fully enjoy his home and pontoon.

Konrath has many hobbies, including golfing, fishing, and shooting prairie dogs. Someday, he dreams of being a snowbird and escaping the Minnesota winters, if only for a few months.

For nearly seven years, Konrath has served as the president of the Waverly Economic Development Authority. Tuesday was his last meeting chairing this group.

“I am retiring from it all,” he said. “I’m wiping the slate clean.”

Though his slate will be wiped clean, he will be taking with him a unique collection he has accumulated over the years.

In his office in the media center of Delano High School are shelves holding assorted bottles of sand given to him by staff and students.

The sand comes from places such as Hawaii, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Mexico.

The collection began when one of his students was going to the Caribbean for spring break. Konrath suggested something be brought back for him, even if it were just sand.

The collection has created a great conversation piece and consists of nearly 90 tiny bottles and containers.

As for plans for the future, Konrath already has a post-retirement part-time job lined up. He will be driving Allina patients to doctor appointments, mostly in the Buffalo area. His good friend, Ken Antil, a Waverly City Council member and retired Wright County deputy, helped him find the part-time job.

Konrath’s real love is geography and he would love to travel, but is also content and happy at his lake home in Waverly.

“As of June 1,” he declared. “I am footloose and fancy-free.”

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