By Julie Krienke
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Wayne Hasz, former teacher and coach at Lester Prairie High School, recalls memories of students who hold the steering wheel so tightly they get white knuckles, and of those who take wide corners or even jump the curb.
For 48 years, Hasz has taught drivers education courses, starting in Lancaster, MN, and finishing in Lester Prairie. After teaching one final class that ended in July, Hasz decided to retire from teaching drivers ed.
“Even though I really enjoyed working with the students, helping develop their driving skills, after 48 years, it may be the right time,” Hasz said.
Hasz grew up on a dairy farm near Ada, MN, where he attended elementary and high school. Little did Hasz know then, he would grow up to become both a teacher and a coach.
“When in the eighth grade, I made a comment to a friend that being a coach would be fun, not ever thinking that would happen,” Hasz said.
“But, after high school, my football coach came out to the farm and asked my dad if he could take me to Moorhead to the state college to talk to the football coach,” Hasz said. “The rest is history.”
Hasz went on to attend Moorhead State University, where he studied to become a teacher. According to Hasz, his first teaching job was in Lancaster, a small town nearly eight miles from the Canadian border in northwestern Minnesota.
After four years in Lancaster, Hasz and his wife, Dorothy, moved to Twin Valley, MN.
“During my second year there, the superintendant that I had in Lancaster, Ray Folstrom, called from Lester Prairie and told me that there was a teaching and coaching position if I was interested,” Hasz explained.
Hasz and his wife moved to Lester Prairie a couple days after receiving the call. He taught and coached at Lester Prairie High School since he accepted the job in 1968, until he retired in 1996.
During his 28 years at Lester Prairie High School, Hasz taught junior high social studies, physical education, and drivers education.
Hasz certainly made his mark on the high school’s records, as he was athletic director for 27 years, head basketball coach for 28 years, boys’ and girls’ cross country coach for 15 years, basketball and track coach for two years, head football coach for two years, and assistant football coach for 11 years.
“During my second year in college, my advisor suggested that a good summer job for a teacher would be to teach drivers ed,” Hasz said. “Because of his suggestion, I took the classes to become certified.”
The first drivers education class Hasz taught was in the summer of 1962. He continued teaching driving courses every summer since then, until receiving his last students this July.
“During the first 34 years, the 30-hour classroom part was done as part of my social studies classes,” Hasz said. “After I retired in 1996, it became part of the community ed program.”
As a drivers ed teacher, Hasz was involved in both the 30 hours of classroom instruction, which was offered twice throughout the year, and the six-hour behind the wheel program. Hasz taught behind the wheel during the summer months.
Now, Hasz looks back on those 48 years and the fond memories he made. Some of Hasz’s favorite memories include riding with students who had never driven before and when students drove from one side of the street to the other.
Hasz has lived with his wife in Lester Prairie since 1968. Their four children are Michael, living in Reston, VA; Kim, currently in Lester Prairie; Cindy, in Princeton, MN; and Doug, living in Alexandria.
“We have seven grandchildren who keep us busy going to all of their athletic activities,” Hasz said.
Now retired, Hasz will find plenty to do in his spare time. Currently, he works part time at ShadowBrooke Golf Course, and he will also substitute teach at Lester Prairie High School.
“I will help my son with his Kettle Korn business and keep busy spending time with my seven grandkids and trying to get to as many of their activities as possible,” Hasz said.
When it comes to his career teaching drivers education, Hasz is grateful to have had so many years working with young students.
“It was enjoyable and a very good experience,” Hasz said. “I had the opportunity to teach students with many different skills and personalities, and that kept it very interesting. I looked forward to each day of my teaching career.”