After more than three decades in the Pequot Lakes School District, physical education teacher and longtime coach Jon Dale has decided to retire from teaching.
"It was a good job. I knew the time was right. When it gets to feel more like work, that is when I needed to be done. Most of my time in the gym with the kids was really fun. I had a good run," Dale said.
His first year of teaching was spent as a long-term substitute in the Highland Park School District, but every other year of his career since has been spent in Pequot Lakes, where he coached "just about everything" but primarily led the cross country, girls basketball and girls golf teams.
The school district was also where Dale raised his family. His wife, Kate, served as his assistant basketball coach and his two older sons, Joshua and Jonas, both graduated from Pequot Lakes and were top athletes and Minnesota State Heisman winners. He credits the many quality teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators the district employed for the positive experiences he and his family had.
"I really had a bunch of good colleagues," Dale said. "There have been so many really, really good teachers in Pequot, which led to my kids having a really good experience. I had made a lot of good friends."
With his newfound free time, Dale hopes to spend plenty of time on his bicycle and on the golf course. He also expects to follow his youngest son, Jameson, who is currently enrolled at St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School in Brainerd, as he grows and competes in sports. Jameson is active in cross country and basketball, and his dad hopes to enjoy a few of his seasons from a relatively unfamiliar place: the stands.
But after coaching 94 high school seasons and 88 youth seasons, participating in dozens of state tournaments along the way, he expects to provide some pointers when needed.
"They ask if teaching is coaching or if coaching is teaching, and I really think they are the same ... In my field, coaching and teaching went hand-in-hand," Dale said.
Over the past 32 years, however, he has developed several rewarding and meaningful relationships with many students and athletes - an aspect of his job he expects to stay with him the rest of his life.
"You get connected with a lot of kids. Now with a lot of those kids, I'm going to their weddings. You form a lot of cool relationships, and that is probably what I will miss the most."