Toward the end of this past school year, someone asked me what was wrong at NRHEG. I must have had a startled look on my face when I asked what this person meant. “Well, people are leaving like rats fleeing a sinking ship.” Mrs. Dinneen was retiring, Mrs. Schumacher was relocating to where she lived, and there were rumblings about the future of Dr. Goodwin. I didn’t consider that a mass exodus, and they all left for legitimate reasons.
And now Mr. Boerboom is also heading to Waseca after only a year with us as band director, so let the grumbling start again about what’s wrong with this school that people are leaving.
The short answer is that there’s nothing wrong at NRHEG. The long answer is coming up!
Listen, the grumblers will always be the loudest. The fact is (I think) that most people are happy working for this school. Are there problems? Of course, and we’re certainly in a transition period with another new superintendent. We’re dealing with constantly moving targets presented from the state legislature and department of education, which have put stress on the staff.
But I still think this is a fabulous place to live and work. The deal is that, with a younger generation, as I’ve written about previously, you tend to see a more mobile work force, always looking for a little bit better situation. I was speaking recently with a retired teacher and mentioned that this was my first job out of college, and I’m entering my 20th year here. She figured we wouldn’t see that as much anymore.
I agree. I hope to stay here until I retire and have never seriously considered leaving. I’ve been told of openings in other districts and been encouraged to apply for them. “You’ll make more money,” is one reason I’ve heard. “It’ll be a smaller school,” was another. Well, I didn’t become a teacher to become wealthy; I make a fair wage, even if insurance is eroding it like it is for everyone else. Plus, I love the size here at NRHEG. My kids are in classes that range from 60-80 kids, and they know everyone in their class. I don’t think smaller than here would be an advantage.
The truth is I was lucky and found my dream job right away. Not everybody is so lucky. I’ve had moments and weeks and months and years I’ve just wanted to scream in frustration, but never even close to a point where I considered looking elsewhere. In reality, those other openings were always told to me by other teachers; I’ve never once looked for what was available.
This is a great place to live and work. Just look at how many alumni work in our schools! The number of those who once sat in my classroom continues to grow, and they still came back despite suffering through me! I sat in on an interview last week where Mr. Bunn made that point to the candidate we were interviewing. Dave and his wife both graduated from here, went elsewhere for a number of years, but inevitably wanted to return. Why come here to our small communities? It’s simple: there are good people here, and it’s a wonderful place to raise a family.
Honestly, I never would have thought I’d enjoy living in such a small town. I would have bet good money when I was in high school or college that I’d at least live in a town the size of New Ulm, probably bigger. But something about our towns drew me in. Even if my job was good, but I didn’t like the town, I would not have stayed.
It’s a personal decision for everyone. I look at Mr. Boerboom, who has the opportunity to go to a band program in Waseca that is at such a high level and say, “Good luck!” It’s a wonderful chance for a young man who has shown he will be an excellent teacher. Would we have liked to keep him? Of course, but I trust the district will search for someone who will also meet those high standards. Other teachers have left because the small town lifestyle is just not for them, and I don’t begrudge them a chance to live in an area they are more comfortable.
Again, we have problems like everyone else. But I point to the large contingent of staff who have been here a very long time and never really looked elsewhere to strengthen the idea that NRHEG is alive and well. We’ll continue to work through transitions that occur in every school district every year and will end up stronger in the end. Go Panthers!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is longhair, which means an intellectual or one having a deep interest in classical music, as in, “The school found a longhair in two senses in their new band director.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!