By Starrla Cray
WINSTED Teaching may have been a second career for Maria Nathe, but it ranks first in her heart in many ways.
“I love teaching,” she said. “I love the routine, and I love the kids.”
Nathe recently retired after 25 years at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Winsted. Most of her time was spent teaching second grade, an age at which students are often uninhibited and impressionable.
“As a second-grade teacher, you really influence a lot of their thinking,” Nathe said.
Nathe always strived to be a good example for her students, and to instill in them a love for math, reading, and the Catholic faith.
“We incorporate faith throughout the day; it’s part of the curriculum,” she said. “That’s something I treasure about Catholic schools and Holy Trinity in particular.”
Before becoming a teacher, Nathe had been a human resources director at the hospital and nursing home in Winsted. Her favorite aspect of that job was the teaching part, whether it was new employee orientation, leading safety classes, or explaining health benefit options.
For years, the idea of teaching elementary school was in the back of Nathe’s mind. When her three children were in high school, Nathe decided to go for it.
“I commuted to St. Cloud State [University] every day,” she recalled.
Not getting a paycheck for those years was a little tough mentally, but Nathe said everything worked out. Nathe added that her husband, Mike, was supportive throughout the transition.
After she earned her degree, Nathe put her name on the substitute teaching list at seven schools. She didn’t expect to be needed right away, but ended up getting a call the first day of school in Lester Prairie, filling in for a teacher on maternity leave.
After about three months in that position, Nathe spent the rest of the year subbing at various schools in the area.
Nathe then accepted a full-time teaching job at Holy Trinity, which is where her own children attended school. Initially, Nathe taught whichever grades needed extra help.
“It kept me on my toes,” she recalled. “It was a challenge, but in retrospect, I really appreciate that.”
Later on, Nathe took over as the regular second-grade teacher. Students at that age receive first reconciliation and first communion, and Nathe said “they’re very excited about receiving those sacraments.”
At Holy Trinity, second-graders are part of a big brother and sister program, where they team up with high school juniors who are preparing for confirmation.
“They get together every month for activities or outreach,” Nathe said. Each November, for instance, they pack Christmas boxes to send to people in Third World countries.
When deciding if it was time to retire, Nathe said she was “on the fence until the end.”
“I really loved what I was doing,” she said. “But I also wanted that other piece. Life is short, and you never know.”
As the school year started this fall, Nathe felt good about her decision. She’s now able to see her seven grandchildren more often, and is looking forward to attending their school events.
Nathe also plans to visit family in California, which is where she grew up. Although Nathe isn’t native to Minnesota, she’s glad she made this state her home.
“This is the best place to raise children,” she said.
Nathe is especially fond of the Winsted area, and said Holy Trinity was a good experience for her children, who were able to participate in a wide range of sports and activities.
Holy Trinity turned out to be a good experience for Nathe, as well.
“Teaching at Holy Trinity was a very rewarding part of my life,” she said. “. . . I learned as much from [my students] as they did from me.”
Editor’s note: Look for a story about Marnie Ebensperger, who also retired from Holy Trinity Catholic School recently, in a future edition of the Herald Journal.