By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN As students and teachers alike rejoice in the final days of the school year and the upcoming summer break, two longtime teachers say their final farewells and set out on the journey of retirement.
After 34 years, Cokato Elementary media specialist Pam Osterberg is retiring at the end of the school year, along with her colleague, Jean Searles who has taught first grade at Cokato Elementary for 29 years.
Cokato Elementary “has been a great place to call ‘home’ for the past 34 years, Osterberg said.
During her time in the media center, she has seen education change considerably with the integration of technology.
“When I started at Cokato Elementary, we had one computer in the building. Now, every aspect of the job involves some type of technology,” Osterberg commented.
Teaching has also been very rewarding for her.
“My fondest memory of teaching is sharing my love of books with students and staff,” Osterberg said. “Every day, I have been able to go to work in an atmosphere where I am surrounded by children’s literature.”
As she prepares to retire, Osterberg reflected on the aspects of her career she will miss the most.
“I will certainly miss the interaction with students and staff, but I will also miss the challenge of the job,” she said. “In education, there is always something new and exciting happening and much of that flows through the media center.”
As for plans in her retirement, “My husband and I plan to do some traveling with family and friends and enjoy life,” Osterberg commented.
Like Osterberg, Searles agrees that the most dramatic change she has seen in her teaching career is the use of technology in the classroom.
“When I started teaching at DC, we used chalkboards; later it was whiteboards, and now I can’t imagine managing a classroom without a smartboard, tablets, or Pinterest!,” Searles commented.
The most rewarding part of her job has been “watching students go from reading very simple patterned books at the beginning of the school year, to reading (and understanding) chapter books,” she said. “It is an amazing feat to witness in the span of nine months. The students are so proud of themselves by the end of the year, as they should be,” Searles added.
The most rewarding part of her job has been the relationships she has with her students.
“We are like a family for those nine months,” Searles said.
“I will also miss sharing my love of literature with them. There is nothing to compare with sitting down and reading a well-written book to a group of first-graders,” she commented. “I have been lucky enough to do that every day of my teaching career.”
As for plans in her retirement, Searles is considering tutoring elementary students in reading in the Waconia area where she lives.
“I would like to reduce my commute to work,” she commented.
The best thing about retirement for her now, however, is not having to have any definitive plans, and the “endless possibilities” that retirement brings.
“Maybe I’ll read a book, or two, or three . . .,” Searles commented.
Beckermanns say ‘goodbye’ to DC and set out on a new adventure
Though they aren’t retiring, several longtime teachers within the district are moving on to other districts including husband-and-wife media specialists Paul and Pam Beckermann.
Paul has been in the district for 27 years, most recently as media and digital learning specialist in the high school, and Pam, for 21 years in the same position but at the middle school.
Together, they have accepted positions as district digital learning specialists in the Elk River Area School District, where they will also be relocating.
Their new jobs will be exclusively focused on training teachers on how to successfully integrate technology into their classrooms.
“This is similar to what we are doing now, but we will no longer be teaching students or managing the media center like we currently do,” Paul explained. Since this is a district-wide position, they will be working with teaching across the district, which consists of 16 different schools from k-12. Elk River has about 800 licensed staff and 12,000 students.
They are both excited about this unique opportunity to work together with a focus on teacher training.
Though they still love working with students, they are looking forward to having an even broader impact by helping teachers get better at their craft.
“We really have a passion for working with teachers, and this will give us even more opportunities to do that,” Paul commented.
The Beckermanns said they are both really going to miss the students, staff, and communities of Dassel and Cokato. “It’s the people that make this place special, and DC will always hold a special place in our hearts,” Paul commented. “We have made great friends here and feel blessed that we had the Dassel-Cokato community to help us raise our children.”
The Beckermanns added that “the teachers and school staff are incredible and make such positive differences in the lives of young people; they have always been an inspiration to us. We are proud to have been part of the Dassel-Cokato School system, and no matter where we live, DC will always feel like home to us.”
Other staff with 20 or more years of service who are on the move are Sue Miller, eighth-grade science teacher; and Mark Peterson, high school science teacher.