Four people are retiring from the Iroquois School District. Their combined years of service in education span 122 years with 88 ½ years being at Iroquois School.
May 19, 2021, was declared Richard Soma Day by Gov. Kristi Noem. The staff and community came together to honor a man who had impacted their lives in a humble, quiet and profound manner. Principal Richard Soma retired after 49 years.
In attendance were the whole student body, staff, administration, former students from all walks of life, family, friends and school board members. A 95-year-old grandmother, who has spent the last year in self-isolation, came to honor the man who taught her youngest children, many of her grandchildren and now her great-grandchildren.
Soma enjoys puzzles. He often asks people the relationship between three unrelated things. "What do Nebraska, Ford and five dollars have in common? They all have Lincolns.”
Because of his love for puzzles, the staff wore t-shirts with puzzles that all pointed to Mr. Soma. “Chisel plow, cool cat, a great leader: Mr. Soma.” “Coffee cup, bonding, just peachy: Mr. Soma.” “Great leader, 42 years in Iroquois, will be missed: Mr. Soma.”
A slide show of his career revealed that the year book was frequently dedicated to him, indicating how the students feel about him.
In 1973, Soma started his career in Draper, S.D. and Jones County and finished with 42 years in Iroquois. He also farms near Oldham and has put over 400,000 miles on his pickups driving to and from Iroquois every day. Those who sped past him on Highway 14 called it “puttzing to Iroquois.”
Teaching business classes, being an administrator and calling himself a dinosaur, Soma has seen great changes from blackboards being removed from classrooms to all the technology that has become the mainstay of education and students’ lives. During his career, he taught several generations of families in Iroquois, and his most famous student was the future South Dakota State Representative John Thune while at Jones County.
Supporting Soma all these years has been his wife, Susan, and their two children, David and Jennifer. He plans on spending more time with his grandchildren and continuing to farm the family farm near Oldham. Soma will possibly substitute if the roads are nice and the cows cooperate. He also insists on a pot of stale coffee.
Jeannie Miller’s most memorable moment is seeing one of the students graduate and be successful in life and in his career. She enjoys having students come back, saying how much she helped them in life. Being a teacher of the lower elementary grades, the students will often write her notes expressing their love. Receiving those notes was a special moment which she will miss.
These notes were often the greatest return for caring so much for her students. The notes and the close relationships that Miller has developed with her co-workers will be what she misses most about teaching.
However, she will not miss the planning and the daily mountains of papers to grade.
After graduating from Northern State University with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and special education, Miller has taught 29 ½ years, with 27 ½ being at Iroquois School District. Her career spans several districts, Iroquois, Sisseton and Clear Lake, and a wide variety of grades and programs, 2nd, 3rd, K-3 at the colony, K-8 special education, 6-12 special education and the gifted program.
Presently, she does not have a lot plans for retirement, except resting and possibly substituting. She wants to develop some new hobbies involving her love for baking, reading and writing. Her time will also be filled with helping her parents. Her father has dementia and is at home.
Miller farms with her husband, Lionel, and their son, Roy, north of Iroquois. Their daughter, Tiffany, is the administer of the Alcester Care and Rehabilitation Center.
Darold Rounds is retiring from teaching after 48 years. Growing up in Iroquois and graduating from Iroquois High School, Rounds taught music in Iroquois for thirteen years early in his career and returned for six more years to direct band and coach cross country and track.
He began teaching in 1976, taught music for 24 years and was the high school principal and superintendent for 24 years. Graduating from Dakota State University in 1976, he then went on to receive his Master of Science in 1988 and a Specialist Degree from the University of South Dakota in 1992. His career included Artesian, Morgan, Minn., Iroquois, Roslyn, Veblen and Colman-Egan, with thirteen years at Iroquois High School.
Rounds is a family man and looks forward to spending more time with his wife, six children and eighteen grandchildren. He plans on spending his free time going to horse shows, fishing and camping. Wintering in Arizona will be a new and welcome change for him.
Technology and teacher pay have been the greatest changes in education during his career. He chose a career as an administrator that provided him with a number of tough moments and challenges. He will not miss those challenges or the challenging parents. The camaraderie of his co-workers will be kept missed, but mostly he will miss the students and the rapport that he has built with them.
Janet Ninas was an elementary paraprofessional at Iroquois Elementary School for 13 years. She came to Iroquois after being a para in Martin. She and her husband, Bob, have plans of moving to Martin to be closer to their children. Ninas will fill her time with grandchildren and reading.