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Pequot Lakes School District: Guenther to retire as art teacher

After 30 years at Pequot Lakes High School, art teacher Dave Guenther is hanging up his apron at the end of the school year. But before he does that, he hopes to impart a little more of his knowledge to the class of 2016 as the graduation ceremon...

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Art teacher Dave Guenther will retire at the end of the school year after 30 years in Pequot Lakes High School. Photo by Dan Determan

After 30 years at Pequot Lakes High School, art teacher Dave Guenther is hanging up his apron at the end of the school year.

But before he does that, he hopes to impart a little more of his knowledge to the class of 2016 as the graduation ceremony's commencement speaker Friday, May 27.

"I'm looking forward to it," Guenther said. "I've written (my speech) over and over again ... The kids came to me and asked me to do the speech, and I asked them for input on what they wanted me to talk about. It is their speech. It's generated from them, and it will be entertaining."

The Waubun native has used art as his "go-away place" since childhood, and has enjoyed teaching it over the past three decades, as it forces students to think creatively and learn from their errors.

"You can give everyone a problem, and everyone will come up with a different answer," Guenther said. "It's problem-solving and being creative. Teaching can be a regurgitation of learning data, taking a test and moving on. Two plus two will always be four. The War of 1812 was in 1812. Nothing changes there ... When kids walk into my room, I tell them, 'You are probably going to fail, but learn from your mistakes and try again.'"

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He also feels that the students have taught him plenty about art over the years, even working some of what he has learned from students into his curriculum.

"We learn together," Guenther said. "I am not up on a podium looking down on you. We learn together. We laugh together. We have sad times together. We do everything together. I learn from them as much as they learn from me."

Guenther was told by his father to be sure to enjoy whatever job he worked, since he would have to do it for a long time, and he feels he has done that.

"If you hate getting up and going to work every morning, that is not a career," Guenther said. "That is just a job, and I have never had a job here. Not many people can say that. I have never woken up and dreaded coming into work. It has never been the same thing every day."

In retirement, Guenther hopes to spend more time with his other endeavors with organizations like the Ideal Sno Pros, Pequot Lakes Brush Pilots, the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame and the National Fish Decoy Association.

He also hopes to help his cousin work the farm Guenther grew up on, walk across Minnesota (probably from east to west as it is "shorter that way"), restore a number of vehicles and spend more time hunting and with his wife, Barb.

"If you do the same thing all the time, it gets a little old," Guenther said. "I like to do a little bit of everything, and it keeps me busy ... I have never been bored. Only boring people get bored."

Though he is excited to take on all of his projects, Guenther admits he will miss his interactions with students.

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"These kids have kept me young," Guenther said. "I can grow old when I have to grow up."

With one year left on his teaching license, however, he felt now was the right time for him to retire.

"I would never want to stay in teaching so long that I'm not effective, and I think I have been very effective," he said.

He will not be a stranger to the school district in retirement, however, as he has agreed to stay on as the boys track and field coach for the foreseeable future.

"Our program has developed a tradition," Guenther said. "We take kids every year to the state tournament. Our level of competition has grown over the years, and there is consistency in the program."

Guenther has utilized a teaching technique known as TAB, or Teaching to Artistic Behavior. With it, students can practice a number of different artistic mediums in the same classroom, allowing them to play to their strengths as well as observe other students to discover what they do best.

"It's my outlook on what's real important in life," Guenther said. "A 4.0 student is great - and they have earned it - but not everybody is going to be a 4.0 student. The main thing is that it is not about how smart you are, it is about how you are smart that you have to discover about yourself ... Everybody has to find what they are good at, and do the best job they can."

This will be Guenther's second commencement speech. He lost his voice before his first speech after spending the night before graduation yelling at a section track meet. Despite this, he is looking forward to sending off the current group of seniors.

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"They are fun," Guenther said. "They are caring. They have personality. They are going to go places. They are very respectful and appreciative. I think young people sometimes get a bad rap because of a couple of bad ones ... It will be fun to see where they end up."

Now that his time in the classroom is drawing to a close, he is excited to spend more of his time in a "welcoming" community that he says accepted him from the start.

"I hope the taxpayers and the school district got their money's worth out of me," Guenther said. "I hope I did what I was supposed to do and more. I think there are things that could have gone better along the way, but overall I'm pretty happy with the way things ended up. It has been a good run."

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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