In the fall of ‘87, a young teacher took her first assignment as a first-grade teacher in De Smet. Tammy Albrecht viewed the work with children as a passion of hers. Thirty-three years later, she stands in the hallway on the students last day of school. Soon her life will no longer consist of grading papers, keeping students in line, teaching them what is important and answering their endless questions. Retirement is now the plan, but the reflection of all the students’ role in her life will forever be part of her memories.
Albrecht said working with children has always been a desire of hers. Helping in Sunday School was something she enjoyed. She looked up to her older sister, Cherrlyn, who had become an elementary teacher and thought it would be a noble profession to go into too. She went to school to become a schoolteacher and was lucky enough to be allowed to student teach in De Smet.
As a student teacher, Albrecht worked with Kathy Aughenbaugh, whom she calls her mentor.
“She always gave me inspiration and encouraged me and set that plateau up there to be as good as you can be at your job,” Albrecht said.
In the fall of ’87, she received her first teaching job. It was exactly what she wanted and where she wanted. She started teaching first grade in De Smet. Back then, chalkboards were the norm in classrooms.
“The content is still the same, teaching them to read, write and everything, but the methods and techniques have changed,” said Albrecht.
Teachers marveled when the chalkboard transitioned into whiteboards; then the use of technology boards slowly replaced the whiteboards. Now, students have their own computers.
After two years of teaching first grade at Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School, Albrecht transitioned to a fourth-grade teacher at the same school and has been there ever since.
“My favorite time teaching was always reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to the children,” said Albrecht. “I always made sure that every class was exposed to the books, because the setting was De Smet in five of her nine books. The setting was our town, and I feel that the students needed to be exposed to that.”
She enjoyed teaching history and especially South Dakota history to her students.
When Albrecht looks back on her career, she says the only hard times were when she had cancer and had to take leave. She lost a year of teaching, but she fought it and persevered. When she returned the next year, she was still a little tired at times, but she was doing what she enjoyed, and day by day, she got stronger.
“As a teacher, you get to spend time with kids every day,” Albrecht said this was the most rewarding part of her job.
Watching students come into her class and then to see them grow and change brought satisfaction to her job. When you work the same job as long as Albrecht has, you pick up a few secrets here and there. She allows her secret is having good support.
“The secret is having an amazing staff to work with and to be in a wonderful school district that backs you; that makes what you're doing easier,” she said. “The support from administration, your co-workers, the entire school district and the school board is the secret to teaching.”
As the sun sets on Albrecht’s teaching career, a new chapter will be opening. Albrecht is looking forward to spending time with her grandchildren. She currently has four, and the fifth is on the way.
Spending time with her husband, Jeff, is another thing she is looking forward to. Albrecht says he has been a tremendous support of her career in teaching. He has also helped her with projects around the classroom and whatever task she needed him to do.
Thirty-two years of teaching experience has taught Albrecht many things. There have been good times and an occasional hard time. The children from her very first class are just hitting age 40. The lessons learned back then are still with them today. When it comes to giving advice to the teacher who will be teaching the fourth-grade class next year, Albrecht just has these two words, “Love them.”