NEW ULM - During her interview, Jan Fredrich struck me as what I think of as a "Renaissance personality" - because of the versatility of her abilities and interests.
Just a few examples:
Mathematics was easy for her in high school, so, in college, she chose instead to work on what she was "less confident" in and major in English.
Staff photo by Kremena Spengler
Jan Fredrich has retired from Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School, ending a 35-year career in teaching.
She has taught a truly wide range of classes, both advanced and basic, including, but not limited to: AP English, British literature, American Literature and composition, poetry, speech, consumer math, practical math, pre-algebra, algebra I and II, world geography, and parenting and child development. She has done so successfully, as evidenced by her students' achievement.
She has juggled the duties of head librarian, Math Team, Knowledge Bowl and National Honor Society adviser as well as chair of the English Department.
In her "younger" teaching days, she coached basketball, volleyball, cheerleading and softball.
When her children were small, Fredrich wrote children's stories to help one of them conquer speech problems (a sample: "Bruce used a brown broom from the broom closet to brush the brown dirt off the path" to illustrate blending; "br" and "fr" are blends.) She has plans to illustrate and publish the stories, and the drawings she showed me testify to her talent as an artist.
Fredrich also creates crafts, sews and plays the piano and organ.
Like other "Renaissance personalities," she is a classics scholar. She once received, and was able to read, a love letter in Latin - sent to her by her future husband, a classical languages professor.
She is an animated talker, and her conversation sparkles.
The Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School teacher is retiring this year, after 28 years in the profession.
The daughter of a Lutheran pastor, Fredrich grew up in Randolph, Two Rivers and West Bend, Wis., graduating from West Bend Public High School.
Fredrich did not plan to be a teacher. Inspired by an aunt's example, she wanted to be a surgical nurse.
Her mind was changed by her father, who convinced her that "the Church needs more workers" and she should "give it a try," remembers Fredrich. She never regretted her choice.
She attended what was then Dr. Martin Luther College (DMLC) in New Ulm, earning her degree in education, with a concentration in English.
Over time, she continued taking classes and earned credits equivalent to a half of a master's degree from the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. Although her master's program (in educational professional development) is on hold, she continued to take "whatever courses, workshops and seminars would benefit my students by making me a better teacher."
Fredrich started out teaching upper elementary grades in a Lutheran school in Seminole, Fla. (1974-76), before moving to an inner-city elementary school in Milwaukee (1976-78). Her next assignment was at Lakeside Lutheran High School in Lake Mills, Wis. (1978-1984). She then took a break and scaled down to half time to raise her children. In 1996, her husband accepted a professorship at Martin Luther College, and the Fredrichs relocated to New Ulm.
She did not immediately return to full-time teaching and briefly worked at Oak Hills and as executive director of the Red Cross. Interestingly, her work for the Red Cross was right around the time a major tornado hit Brown County and a wind storm hit New Ulm, in 1998.
After teaching part-time at Minnesota Valley Lutheran (1996-2001), her assignment there became full-time (2001-2013).
Fredrich says she especially enjoys the self-sufficiency and motivation of high-school aged students.
"The kids are the best part of the day; we have a lot of fun," she said.
She enjoys the rapport with students; "the interest, the discussions, watching the wheels turning;" as well as "the procedural aspects" of teaching a concept.
One thing she won't miss? "Faculty meetings at 7 a.m.," she laughs.
Fredrich hopes that retirement will afford her time to concentrate on family, health, on "reclaiming her house" and interests such as the writing, illustrating and crafts.
Her advice to a beginning teacher?
It is best expressed in what her own teachers stressed in college, she says: "Be fair, be firm, be friendly."
She is leaving her successor a huge legacy, in materials and teaching aids. However, she adds: "Make the course your own. Once I leave this classroom, it is no longer my course."