After 34 years with the Pine River-Backus School District, teacher Nancy Meier was perfectly qualified to retire. A bout with cancer approximately a year earlier helped her decide that June 6 was the day.
Leaving now means Meier has an overwhelming majority of good memories from her years in front of the classroom, and that was an important factor.
"I have the rule of 90, but I have always said I am not in this to get rich," Meier said. "I also don't want to be here when I'm not enjoying it. I am still liking it, even with challenges."
Meier said recovery has made her feel worn down. Of course, following a battle with an illness like cancer, a person often tires faster. In addition, major illness almost always comes with reflection and perspective, a perspective that includes goals.
"My health isn't bad, but it's kind of scary to think about what I want to do with my life," Meier said. "I want to do more volunteering. I want to be able to go on the trail more with my bike. I want to read more books. I can't let myself read books during the school year or else that is all I will do. I want to be able to do it whenever I want. After lots of thoughts of pros and cons, I think it's time to let the younger generation have at it."
Having started in 1984, Meier very well might be back at school on a limited basis. It's hard to leave behind something you have lived with and enjoyed for so long.
"For the most part I'm happy with my decision," Meier said. "I don't think it will really hit me til September. At that point when I really start missing the kids, I'll maybe put my name in to do some subbing."
Unlike many retiring teachers who came to Pine River-Backus after starting somewhere else, Meier started at Backus School with Title I classes and coaching basketball. The job was the culmination of a career track that started with a math teacher at Staples High School. Meier went to the College of St. Benedict to follow in that teacher's footsteps.
"I switched (from math) because I had more of a rapport with younger kids rather than high school kids," Meier said. "Plus, there was one point in a calculus class where I decided it wasn't for me."
In two years Meier found a long-term position teaching fourth grade for 14 years, then taught third grade for six to eight years. For several years she alternated between second and third grades until four years ago, when she settled back to fourth grade and finished approximately where she started.
"I like to say one of the best parts of teaching is learning," Meier said. "Every day you can learn something new about a student or how to teach differently. Different students respond differently to how you teach. Every day you learn something new you didn't know the day before. I also like to watch students as they experience the 'aha, I get it.' I used to have a thing up here that said, 'I really understand it, I sort of understand it, or I don't understand it yet'."
Meier said she will miss not only her students, but also the coworkers she has interacted with for almost her entire career. Among them are teachers Susan Tehennepe and Cheri Lemberg and Director of Buildings and Grounds Karl Flier, all of whom worked closely with her in Backus. They moved to the Pine River building together.
"It's been a privilege to have students who have hopefully learned something in my class," Meier said. "Many of them I have watched grow into adults. I appreciate all the support from the staff that have been teaching with me. In 34 years it doesn't sound like a lot, but looking back it feels like it was a long time ago. I'm ready to move on to the next adventure, the next excitement."