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Boyceville School District bids farewell to four teachers

by Marlys Kruger

Although some of them may continue to work in education through various means, four full time teachers from the Boyceville School District announced their retirement this past spring. The group includes high school science teacher Stuart Skrove along with elementary teachers Diane Buck, Steve Duerst and Jody Wolski.

Stuart (Stu) Skrove

Skrove hails from southern Minnesota and graduated with honors from the former Mankato State University (now Minnesota State-Mankato), with a B.S. Degree in Biology/Earth and Space Science in 1981. He earned a Masters degree in Science Education from UW-River Falls in 1999 and continued his education by taking classes at several different colleges including Michigan State University (Molecular Biology), St. Cloud State University (Field Geology) and the Milwaukee School of Engineering (Protein Modeling), to name a few.

“My goals in life were to make my grandfather proud, start my own business, graduate from college, find a dinosaur and climb a mountain,” Skrove said. “My grandfather passed away at age 94, living long enough to see me achieve many of my goals. I became a professional beekeeper at age 15, found a Triceratops dinosaur in North Eastern Montana in 1996 while working with a paleontologist in the field, and climbed five mountains in Colorado, making it to the summit of three of them,” he added.

Before coming to Boyceville, Skrove taught science in grades 7-12 for five years  in the Ceylon School District in southern Minnesota (it is now consolidated and part of the Martin County school system). He instructed classes in biology, advanced biology and middle school science while starting their first ever science club in which he took students to science museums, taught them beekeeping, did astronomical viewing sessions and went fossil hunting.

His next stop, which ended up lasting for 29 years, was in Boyceville. Skrove has been in the high school all those years, teaching Advanced Placement (AP) biology, AP environmental science, advanced earth/space science, general biology and physical science along with Driver’s Education for many years. He was the junior class advisor all 29 years with the school and has worked with the Science Olympiad team. He also taught for the Dunn County Alternative School six years and did College for Kids during the summer for several years.

Skrove’s  reason for staying in Boyceville all these years was simple.

“I fell in love with Western Wisconsin and specifically Boyceville due to the wonderful biodiversity of plants and animals,” he said. “My grandfather called it “God’s Country.” I can only hope that my former students and community members don’t take these resources for granted. Boyceville is a biology teacher’s dream. There is a trout stream within walking distance to the school, along with forest and prairie biomes available as an outdoor classroom,” he added.

Skrove also stated he has received a lot of positive feedback from many students, usually after they graduated.

“They often realized that in spite of me being a tough and demanding teacher, I really did care about them,” Skrove said.

One of his fondest memories is receiving an e-mail from one of his alternative students 15 years after he taught him. The student had joined the Navy and graduated from college, and included a picture of himself shaking hands with President Bush.

“He thanked me and told me I had made a difference in his life,” he said. “This is the kind of feedback that makes teaching all worth while.”

Some of the differences in education Skrove has witnessed since he began are the new methods and technology teachers are expected to keep up with.

“It seems someone always wants to reinvent the wheel in education,” he said. “But traditional educational methods and hands on learning always worked best for me.”  The biggest change he has witnessed is the attitude towards public education and teachers as a whole. The respect teachers once received has declined a great deal, along with student’s work ethics, time management skills and responsibility for their own behavior, he stated.

“They have too many distractions with technology now,” he said. “I find positive aspects to some technology but I haven’t been able to keep up with it all. It is time for me to pass the baton to a younger digital minded educator,” he said.

Skrove’s plans for his retirement will be to continue to work part time for Per Mar Security at the Andersen Windows Consolidation Center and to help his wife Mary in her tailor shop. He will keep busy with his hobbies which include amateur astronomy, fossil hunting, gardening, hiking and beekeeping.

“I am a lifelong learner so I will continue to read, study and research many aspects of science,” he said. “I also want to spend time with my 86 year old father on the farm. I will also be able to spend more time with my children and grandchildren as well. I do not think there is a lack of things to do as long as my health is good,” he concluded.

Steve Duerst

Duerst has been in education for 32 years, the last 27 with the Boyceville district. After receiving a scholarship to wrestle for UW-Madison, Duerst obtained a BS degree in Physical Education and Health and Safety Education in 1980. He earned another degree in Elementary Education in 1988 from the same school then completed a Master of Science degree in Education from UW-Stout in 1997. All, told, Duerst has earned well over 200 credits from various institutions of higher learning.

After substitute teaching and teaching summer school health in the Madison area for several years, Duerst was hired by the Boyceville district in 1988 to teach third grade in the Wheeler school. He continued in third grade at Tiffany Creek and after 21 years, moved to fourth grade, and for the last four years of his 27 years in Boyceville, he was a fifth grade instructor.

Duerst has been involved in coaching and other extra-curricular activities throughout the years, starting as a college student when he was the Verona Middle School wrestling coach for a couple of years. He then took over the coaching duties at Madison Area Technical College which competed at the Junior College level. After three seasons there, he took over the head wrestling coaching position at Madison West High School for three seasons then came to Boyceville for the teaching job and became head wrestling coach for two seasons before taking a break from coaching to work on his Masters and spend time with his growing family. Later on, he coached the elementary wrestling program for 10 years and was an assistant football coach for a year, and for the past two years was an assistant Science Olympiad coach.

He and his wife Diane decided to stay in Boyceville with their five sons because they wanted the boys in a small district that provided a quality education. Some of the changes he has seen in the district include student achievement and the wide range of student performance due to the fact not enough students fully embrace the opportunities the district has to offer.

“For all of my career here, there have been many wonderful co-curricular activities to participate in including sports, music, drama, FFA and other clubs,” Duerst said. “ And our strong Science Olympiad program is having a positive impact on our students. The district has beefed up course offerings by adding more Advanced Placement classes which allows our students to earn college credits while in high school. We have Boyceville graduates who are attending Harvard, MIT, Notre Dame, Northwestern and other Big 10 Universities as well as local state colleges,” he added.

Another change Duerst has noticed is the number of young people going into education has been dramatically reduced due to changes in state laws.

“We used to have 75-150 applicants for jobs here and now we have had less then 10 applicants for some jobs,” he said. “So far, the district has been fortunate because we have had at least one strong candidate to choose from and they chose to come to Boyceville. Finding good talent will be a challenge for all districts, especially small ones,” he noted.

Plans for the future include spending time with his family, including his new grandson. He may also do some substitute teaching and will look for other ways to work with kids, both in Boyceville and around the world it appears. Duerst just returned from his third trip to Slovakia where he worked at a church camp that taught American and English sports to high school students.

“It was a high energy camp with 18 hour days filled with teaching, lots of engaging games and activities with teenagers,” he said. “ Even though my body reminds me I am not as young as I used to be, I still love working at these camps because it is so rewarding to connect with the teens and help them meet the many challenges in their life,” he concluded.

Jody Wolski

Wolski earned her degree in Elementary Education from UW-River Falls in 1979 then continued her education by doing graduate work in Special Education from UW-Eau Claire. After substitute teaching in several area school districts she took a full time job in Boyceville where she taught special education five years, fourth grade for 11 years and third grade her final four years.

“Of all the changes I have seen in education since I started, the most significant one is the implementation of teaching standards,” Wolski said. “We started with the Wisconsin Standards and are now working towards implementing the Common Core Standards,” she added.

Future plans include spending time with her grandchildren and spending fall days during the week at the cabin. She may also travel south in February and March to escape the dreary end of winter here in Wisconsin.

Diane Buck

After earning a degree in Animal Science from UW-River Falls in 1982, Buck made a complete change in her career by earning another degree from the same institution in Music Education in 1987. She went on to receive a Masters in Professional Development-Education from UW-LaCrosse in 2008 and completed an initial licensure for Library-Media Specialist and Professional Licensure for Library media in 2015.

Her teaching career began as a music teacher in the Prentice School District, then she moved onto the Wausau Catholic system. Before coming to Boyceville in 2000, she worked for three years at Wausau Hospitals in Central Scheduling. From 2000-2007, she taught Pre-K-6 music in Boyceville and when she finished her career, she was the Library Media Specialist as well as the 4K and kindergarten music teacher, fourth grade computer teacher and fourth grade reading interventionist. She performed many other extra-curricular duties in her 15 years including assisting with the high school musical one year.

The biggest changes in education Buck has noticed is all the data that must be tracked for each student.

“This has greatly influenced the way we teach and what we teach,” she said. “The expectations of what a kindergarten student was expected to do back in the 90s is so different from today. In my opinion, they are pushed to be able to read way too early which in the long run, I feel discourages them to enjoy reading.Our goal is to read for fun and enjoyment, but because of data, we need to assess them so much of their reading. We have a lot of students who love to read but I see the number of them going down because of it.”

Another change Buck has seen is the number of schools who have licensed librarians.She believes there are many things students still need to learn in libraries including how to find information and use resources correctly which are taught by librarians.

Buck hopes to stay involved in education by either working part time or substitute teaching because there are still many things she wanted to do while teaching to help students.

The rest of Diane Buck’s story

Buck did not intend to retire this year but an incident that happened in February of 2012 changed her plans—and life –drastically.

“I was driving home from school on a slippery road and came around a corner and began to fishtail,” Buck said. “I didn’t want to hit an oncoming school bus so I swerved and went into the ditch. I rolled the van and hit my head hard on the roof and was taken to the hospital where I was checked over and released. They gave me some ice to put on the two large bumps on my head near my ear and said I would ache for a while but I would be okay. The next day I was having some speech problems but I thought I would be okay. The whole  year after the accident, I was  having more problems. I had anxiety and depression and could not work more then an hour on a given task and had issues whenever I overdid something without a break. I also had balance problems and my short term memory was greatly impacted. I couldn’t remember short songs or my grandfathers name or names of students, which I prided myself on knowing all their names. My eyes gave me trouble and loud noises caused anxiety for me. I could not sleep at night because I felt wired all the time.”

After being told by doctors she was just depressed, Buck requested to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for some tests. It turned out she was dealing with Post Concussion /Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Syndrome. She had gone back to work just two days after the accident and according to the Mayo doctors, she should not have gone back to work at all the rest of the school year.

Buck had no guarantee her memory would get better so she began to work with a speech pathologist to learn how to compensate for it. She also had to take several breaks throughout the work day to function.

“After struggling with these symptoms almost daily, I chose to retire and work only half time,” she said. “I wanted to share this story to educate others about the hidden disability of a brain injury. Many ER doctors don’t check for it and it is something that should be evaluated anytime someone suffers a head injury.I wasn’t given any information on post concussion symptoms or required to go back soon after the accident to be checked. If you or someone you know has had a head injury, you need to advocate for yourself or for them and insist they get checked. I hope my story will let everyone know they should not have to go through all the struggles I did and am still going through. I will never be the same Diane as I was,” she concluded.