6/14/2013 11:04:00 AM Randolph teacher plans to "just enjoy life"
by Sue Sullivan
Randolph Schools second grade teacher Geri Hedeen retired from teaching this spring.
She began her career in 1976 with long and short term substitute teaching in various schools and was then hired at the former Hampton Catholic School to teach a combination class of first and second graders. She also taught remedial reading and math during summer school in Randolph.
In 1979 Geri was hired full-time at Randolph Schools to teach Vanda Pressnall's second grade while Pressnall was on a year of maternity leave. "When I first started at Randolph, I was moved from second to third (grades), then first and back to second grade until the present time," she remembers.
But the story began before that. Hedeen recounted, "I had a favorite aunt from the Mazeppa area who taught elementary and special ed for many years. When we'd visit, I'd play with her 'teacher things' in the attic. I'd play school and never tired of being teacher."
Her love of children and teaching was further bolstered when she began babysitting at age 12. "I made all my spending money, babysitting for several families throughout high school," she explained. "One family had six children, ages two through nine, and I cared for them ever day all summer when I was sixteen. It was a lot of work, with little pay, and while it may have swayed me from wanting to become a parent at a young age it did not deter me from wanting to be a teacher!" she exclaimed.
Self-described as "a second grader at heart," Hedeen delighted in her students' eagerness and especially their sense of humor in the classroom. She loved the challenge of teaching young students basic skills of reading, math, grammar and more.
The biggest change in teaching in her 37 year career is "technology, of course." When a Mac computer was installed in Hedeen's classroom at "old Randolph Elementary," students were excited to finish their "real work" so they could take their turn playing Oregon Trail. "It was just supplemental, more like a toy," she explained. "Now I have learned to use laptops, Smartboards, etc." She continued, "Technology is (now) part of every subject. It doesn't make teaching easier but it gives you more options."
"What I hope my students take away from my classroom each year," explained Hedeen, "is that they are a class, teammates, working together, helping each other; that they are using manners and kindness, following the Golden Rule."
She admonishes her students to "Be responsible for your own materials and actions. A carpenter needs his/her tools... so do you. Have your pencil ready! Always be a good listener... and remember you don't always get to be 'the boss'... Sometimes others want to have their way too."
Over the years Hedeen has noted that students are generally not as shy as they once were. "They used to be shy and quiet the first couple weeks of school - now maybe the first couple hours. But they are still just kids wanting to learn and in need of guidance."
The aspects of her job she enjoyed the most were "teaching kids to read and to love books, and working with my wonderful co-workers - teachers are fun people!
"I've always enjoyed listening to kids' stories when they first get to school in the morning, and their show and tells. You learn so much about their interests and families. I have always been guilty of letting my students talk too long and bring too much to share but I have loved it."
Less appealing was the paperwork not associated with correcting papers or reading her students' work.
"One year, while the new elementary school was being built, scaffolding was just inches from my classroom windows with men working. I had to keep shades drawn or 25 heads were always turning - and not toward me!" she exclaimed.
Now retired, Geri hopes to spend more time with her husband of 27 years, Ken Hedeen, and their two sons: Shane, age 25, and Cory, age 23. She will spend some time at their country home outside of Cannon Falls, where they have lived since she and Ken married, working on projects that need to be done, gardening, fishing, reading and traveling to visit other family members.
"I'll be riding my new bike - a very precious gift from my amazing and talented friends at Randolph. I'll just enjoy life," she concluded.
Randolph colleagues honored her as "Teacher of the Year" at an end-of-year celebration and sang the song, "For Good" from the musical, "Wicked" for her retirement.