By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN School days are over for seven teachers and staff who are retiring from Delano Public Schools at the end of the school year.
Among them are fourth grade teacher Jan Christopherson and vocal music teacher Brad Hagen, each with 31 years of service, as well as special education teacher Leo Pospichal with 24 years of service, and paraprofessional Barb Stevens, with 13 years of service.
The other three, Sharon Keller, John Zerull, and Gail Savage, are highlighted in a separate article.
Jan Christopherson’s first teaching job was in Delano, and she’s thankful for the good families, students, and staff she’s worked alongside. “I just feel really fortunate to have worked in Delano,” she said.
After growing up in Minneapolis, Christopherson earned a degree from the University of Minnesota in history. Later, she got a master’s degree from Hamline University.
“I did a lot of things in my early 20s, and realized I enjoyed working with children,” she said.
For the past 31 years, she’s had the opportunity to invest in the lives of countless fourth grade students.
“It’s just fun to see how they grow and change from the beginning of the year to the end,” she said. “Every day is something new.”
Christopherson said she appreciates the children’s enthusiasm and sense of humor.
“They get to be my kids for nine months,” she said.
Now that she’s retiring, Christopherson said she’s “seeing what else is out there.”
A few of her hobbies include hiking, kayaking, and reading.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
A few decades ago, if someone would have asked Brad Hagen what his career plans were, he probably wouldn’t have said “vocal music teacher.”
For his first three years of college, Hagen had been pursuing optometry. Then, he decided that he wanted to teach instead, and switched to music education.
Hagen said he’s glad he chose the path he did.
“I’ve made a lot of great friends here over the years,” he said. After three years teaching band and choir in Walnut Grove, Hagen spent 31 years in Delano teaching choir to grades 9 through 12.
Teaching comes naturally to Hagen.
“I’m a second-generation educator,” he said. Hagen’s mother was a kindergarten teacher, and his father taught industrial technology.
Now that he is retiring, Hagen is hoping to become more involved in the Wright County Chamber Choir in Buffalo. He is also planning to have more time for acting and directing with the community theatre in Buffalo.
“We’re losing a lot of long-time teachers this year,” said high school special education teacher Leo Pospichal. With 24 years of service in Delano and an additional six years in Iowa, Pospichal is definitely one of them.
Instead of retiring, however, Pospichal plans to continue his career by helping students at a school in Beijing.
“I want to do these things while I’m still young,” Pospichal said. “Ever since I’ve become involved with the Chinese club, I’ve wanted to explore the Chinese culture deeper. I’m ready for a new adventure.”
Pospichal’s teaching adventure started when special education was a very new field.
“I originally wanted to be a guidance counselor,” he said. When he found out about special education, however, he knew that was where he belonged.
“It’s always very rewarding to see students graduate,” he said. “You get to know students and their parents very well.”
Pospichal said he’s thankful that he was able to work in Delano.
“I think Delano is the best school in Minnesota, and maybe even in the US,” he said. “We cooperate with each other. From top to bottom, kids succeed around here.”
While in Delano, Pospichal coached eighth grade baseball and led the Chinese club.
Pospichal’s wife, Susan, is a math teacher at Dassel-Cokato Public Schools. When the couple goes to China July 30, she might do substitute teaching or tutoring at the school where Pospichal is teaching.
The school in China is very similar to an American school, Pospichal said. Many of the students are American, European, or Japanese children of politicians, statesmen, and diplomats.
Pospichal said he’s learned a lot during his career in Delano, and often gives this advice: “Take care of the little things, and the big things will fall into place.”
For 13 years, Barb Stevens has been a paraprofessional in Delano, but her experience in education began long before.
She started by teaching Sunday school, just as her mother had.
After graduating from Winona State University with a degree in elementary education, she taught first and second grade in various schools a year in Milwaukee, a year in Plainview, and two years in Rochester.
“Then, I had to ‘retire’ because I was pregnant,” Stevens said. She and her husband, Orrin, moved to the Twin Cities area, where they raised three children Greta, Eric, and Kirk.
Stevens got back into the teaching world by helping with preschool in Delano and in Long Lake.
Then, she started work as a paraprofessional for small groups of fifth graders, working about five hours per day.
“Some of the students came up to me and said they’d miss me,” Stevens said. “It’s time to go, but I will miss them.”
Stevens has also provided service through the continuing education curriculum board and Dollars for Scholars.
Stevens said she doesn’t expect to be bored during retirement.
“I think my children have plans for me,” she laughed.
Stevens said she is looking forward to enjoying her children and grandchildren, and traveling with her husband, who has been retired for nine years.