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Seventh-grade math teacher Kent Rangen retired at the end of the 2013-14 school year after 37 years in the district. Rangen emphasized hard work and consistency with the more than 5,000 students he instructed in his classroom. Photo by Chelsey Perkins

Longest tenured teacher in Pequot Lakes retires

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Kent Rangen estimates he's taught more than 5,000 students in his 37 years as a Pequot Lakes Middle School math teacher.

Rangen, who retired at the end of this school year as the longest tenured teacher in the district,

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said that in that time, technology has changed education tremendously in many ways. In his own days as a student, he recalled calculating his answers using a slide rule, a mechanical analog "computer" that looks like a ruler with a plastic sliding cursor.

"The rich kids had calculators," he said. "The rest of us had slide rules."

Despite the leaps and bounds that have led to immense computing power in the pockets and at the fingertips of every student in his classroom, he doesn't believe the actual students have changed much.

"You deal with all the fads. Right now, we deal with cell phones," he said. "But you always have the class clowns, the hard workers, just about every group."

He's got the sample size to prove it. Teaching for that long in the same community allowed Rangen the opportunity to instruct the children of former students, one aspect he really enjoyed about the job.

"It's almost to the point now where someone's going to walk in and say, 'You had my grandma,'" he said.

In those 5,000 students, almost all seventh-graders, he's always tried to instill the ethics of hard work and consistency.

Those ethics are ones he obtained as a child growing up on a dairy farm. Born in North Dakota, his parents moved to the Brainerd lakes area in the 1960s, and he worked on their farm daily growing up.

"It was hard work," he said. "That's something I've probably carried with me."

Rangen graduated from Brainerd High School in 1970 and went on to study mathematics at what is now known as Central Lakes College in Brainerd and then St. Cloud State University. While pursuing his studies, he decided to focus on teaching math.

"It wasn't something I picked out as a child," he said. "But I've always liked math. When I was in high school, I took all the math I could get a hold of."

He taught in the Osseo Area Schools for the first two years of his career before taking the job in Pequot Lakes. He began teaching math to seventh- through 12th-graders in his first years at Pequot Lakes, along with two years of high school biology, before settling in to seventh-grade math.

He enjoyed the grade level because rather than focusing on one specific subject, like geometry, middle school afforded him the chance to teach "a lot more variety."

Although Rangen has retired as a full-time teacher, he said it is likely he will return to teach math at Pequot Lakes as a substitute when called upon. But it's likely he won't teach elsewhere. It's at Pequot Lakes where he feels the most comfortable.

"Pequot really, truly has above average kids," he said. "Overall, our student population is pretty awesome."

Besides the occasional subbing job, Rangen plans to spend his retirement doing more of the activities he loves: cross-country skiing, deer and grouse hunting and biking. He and his wife, Sanny, will also be able to visit their daughter, Aani, more often at her home in Jacksonville, Florida. Both his wife and daughter also work in education, Sanny as a paraprofessional in the Brainerd Public Schools and Aani as a teacher.

Leisure activities and traveling aside, Rangen said he still plans to keep doing math.

"I'll never run from math," he said. "I still like it."

Chelsey Perkins can be reached at chelsey.perkins@pineandlakes.com. Follow her at facebook.com/PEJChelsey and on Twitter @PEJ_Chelsey.

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