Graduation was the place to be on Saturday at the Lake Preston High School Gym. Eleven students graduated, and two teachers retired after each had more than thirty years teaching in Lake Preston. The students and staff will miss both the graduating students and the retirees but wish them luck in their next adventure!
“I’ve always had a love of learning and have enjoyed teaching and helping kids of all ages,” states Jan Hillestad, who is retiring this year from Lake Preston Schools. “If my job involved solely working with the kids, I would probably continue to do it for a very long time.”
Jan began teaching in 1984, fresh out of Northern State College. For the past 37 years, Hillestad has been a fixture in the Lake Preston Public School, where she spent her entire career following her passion in special education. In her early years, Hillestad taught special education to kindergarten through twelfth grade students. As her case load increased, she moved to middle and high school, where she could see the older students find their passion and pursue their career choice.
The biggest changes in education have been in technology.
“Technology has been the greatest change and challenge, and it is still ever-changing in education,” Hillestad said. “In the early 80’s, I recall learning to use a Commodore PET computer with a cassette tape drive and a 9-inch screen. At college, the computer lab consisted of 3-5 of these computers in a tiny room. We were still learning to use overhead and reel-to-reel projectors in multi-media class at the time! Today, technology is an amazing tool in the classroom, but the hours of training and learning to use and implement the programs are extremely time-consuming.”
After the dust settles, and Jan is able to pursue new activities, she will spend time with her family which includes her husband, Rick, who works at Twin City Fan in Brookings.
“He has been my rock and greatest supporter through all the ups and downs of my teaching career,” Hillestad reported.
She has two grown sons, Carson (25), who works in Las Vegas as a field engineer for Primoris Renewable Energy and Taylor (22), who is pursuing a degree in industrial engineering at the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.
Hillestad will also fill her time with gardening, journaling, painting and walking or bike-riding.
Her toughest moment in these 37 years has been the loss of a student way too soon.
“You never get over that, and it does not get easier.”
Mingled with the sorrow of leaving her job are the joyful moments of time spent laughing with students and co-workers; those will forever be “precious memories.” She will definitely miss students and co-workers the most.
“Teaching in a small town where you really get the chance to get to know people deep down is not a job; it’s a gift,” concluded Hillestad.
After teaching 31 years in Lake Preston, Dawn Bindert is retiring. She will not miss correcting the papers, however, Bindert will miss the ‘ah-ha’ moments when the students’ faces light up when they come to understand a difficult concept.
Bindert will also miss seeing students who begin first grade “knowing minimal words” and progress through the year to become confident readers.
What do her students have to say about her?
“What I love about Mrs. Bindert is that she also taught my Dad.” (Avery Hesby) followed up with “I love that she survived teaching my uncles. (Ryker Eschenbaum) and “I love that she taught me how to read.” (Charlie McDaniel)
Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and a minor in physical education from Dakota State College in 1982, Bindert began her teaching career 39 years ago in Letcher and then Woonsocket and a year at a private preschool in Woonsocket. Her family then moved to De Smet. She taught sixth grade for four years and first grade for the last 27 at Lake Preston.
Instead of grading papers, making bulletin boards and getting ready for school, Bindert will fill her time with her hobbies.
“l would like to camp more in the fall, go antique shopping and try new recipes,” said Bindert. “I may possibly sub.”
She will miss visiting with her coworkers about school and family.
Her family consists of husband, Brian, and two sons. Brad lives in Sioux Falls, and Paul lives with his wife, Shelby, in Reno, Nevada.
Thank you, Dawn and Jan for your service to the children of Lake Preston.