By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Colfax Middle School language arts teacher Tim Devine has taught at Colfax for 34 years and will officially retire at the end of the school year June 30.
William C. Yingst Jr., Colfax district administrator, taught across the hall from Devine for 10 years when Yingst was a middle school science teacher.
Yingst spoke about his association with Devine at the Colfax school district’s annual staff recognition banquet May 30 at Whitetail Golf Course.
“It’s an honor to work with someone like Tim who I truly believe had fun while doing his job. Almost any student you talk to who has gone through our school system almost always mentions Mr. Devine. And even if the students were not really into English, language arts or literature, Tim could make some progress and a connection with them by making learning fun,” Yingst said.
“Many of his students didn’t really know they were learning because they enjoyed being in his class so much,” he said.
“Tim was even recognized by a student who was overcome with emotion at the senior (awards) banquet this spring, and that was a real tribute to him,” Yingst said.
Devine has coached many different sports and also has been a chaperone on school trips and has served as the advisor of the middle school student council, he noted.
“I could go on and on about Tim Devine. But it comes down to this. Tim touched the lives of and influenced many students in his career, and that is truly priceless and one of the greatest accomplishments of any teacher,” Yingst said.
“I never thought this day would come. Jim and Kim, congratulations, it’s an honor to retire with such classy people,” Devine said, referring to Kimberly Myers, Colfax High School English teacher, and Jim Keltner, who has served as a bus driver for the Colfax school district.
“This may come as a surprise to most of you, but I have spent most of my life as the class clown. I started in elementary school when I had to entertain the nuns. And let me tell you, they’re a tough crowd. I fine-tuned my act in middle school and high school, and even in college. I was blessed because all of my teachers had a good sense of humor, and they never discouraged me from sharing my personality in class,” Devine said.
While a sense of humor can sometimes get people into trouble, Devine says that has not been the case for him.
“Only twice do I remember my sense of humor getting me into trouble. Once was in fifth grade when we had a long-term sub named Mrs. Fehr,” he said.
“On the very first day of her job, I stood up in front of the class and said — rather presidentially — ‘students we have nothing to fear but Fehr herself.’ I ended up in Sister Paulette’s office,” Devine said.
“The second time was about a dozen years ago during an inservice on blood borne pathogens. I assume the older staff may remember. That’s not bad — 57 years and I only got into trouble twice,” he said.
Devine did not explain what had happened at the blood borne pathogens inservice, although several in the crowd of about 160 people who attended the staff recognition banquet said they remembered the incident.
Devine commended Dr. Lee Bjurquist for “taking a chance and hiring me in 1984 … he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He offered me $16,840 to teach.”
Bjurquist and his wife, Kathy, also attended the staff recognition banquet as did several retirees from previous years.
Devine commended Dr. Bjurquist for hiring “a cute dynamic fifth grade teacher named Miss Anderson” too.
Miss Anderson eventually became Mrs. Devine.
Three of their four children were able to attend the staff recognition banquet as well.
“What I always knew about Sue that the DPI figured out a couple of years ago: she is the best teacher in the state of Wisconsin,” Devine said.
In 2015, Sue Devine was named Wisconsin’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. She is a science and social studies teacher at Northstar Middle School in the Eau Claire school district.
At this point in his farewell to staff members, Devine choked up a bit.
“Colfax is so much more than a place to work. It’s so much more than a job. I wouldn’t have my family if it wasn’t for Colfax, and I will forever be grateful to this school district,” he said.
Devine also mentioned the administrators he had worked with: Al Stai (retired Colfax Elementary principal), Ron Fandry (retired Colfax High School principal), Dennis Geissler (retired Colfax school district administrator), Trevor Hovde (Colfax Elementary principal), John Dachel (Colfax High School principal), Polly Rudi (director of special education), and of course, Bill Yingst.
All of the administrators were supportive, and “I had the greatest bosses,” Devine said.
Devine also was appreciative of the administrative staff, the school counselors, and the other middle school teachers as well as coaching colleagues Tim Wilson and Andy Meade.
He especially wanted to recognize Dave Wolff and Carl Rudi, two long-time middle school colleagues.
“Dave was the leader of our middle school pack for many years … Carl has been a rock, and we’ve both been in the middle school forever, it seems,” Devine said.
“I have so much respect and admiration for everyone in this room for belonging to the most noble profession in the world. Every year, it seems, we improve our curriculum, we update our technology, we change the physical environment of our classrooms, and we administer more standardized tests. But we cannot achieve excellence in the classroom without first-rate teachers,” he said.
“No one ever goes into teaching to get wealthy. But after 34 years in this district, I feel like I’m the richest man in the world. It’s not work when you love your job and the people you do it with,” Devine said.