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Headed for the sunshine

Somerset teacher Katy Irlbeck says she has seen her last day of below zero temperatures.

Ironic, coming from the elementary teacher who has taught a unit for many years on the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. That included having her third grade students do their own version of an Iditarod race, with several students towing around another on a sled. They would follow a course, making stops just like the Iditarod racers.

Irlbeck said she got the idea for the Iditarod race from her sister, who is a teacher in Alaska.

Irlbeck is retiring after 20 years of teaching in the Somerset School District. Her husband, Tom, is a retired commercial pilot. They now plan to split their time between their home in Somerset and a home they've built in Florida.

Irlbeck started teaching in Somerset as a long-term substitute. When Muriel Wegge retired as a third grade teacher, Irlbeck stepped into that position. Now nearly 20 years later, it is Irlbeck's turn to step aside.

One thing students are sure to learn from Irlbeck is proper word usage. She's a stickler for selecting the correct verb. She does not allow "stuff" and "things" to be spoken in her classroom, because there are more specific words that should be used instead. Her students learn the difference between finished and done, between could and may, between seen and saw.

"You have to speak correctly," Irlbeck said. "If you don't correct them, they won't change."

Irlbeck said she enjoys teaching third grade because it is a transitional level in education.

"They come in basically as primary students. They leave with good study habits. I feel we get to do a lot of molding. The kids learn how to budget their time."

She said there is a level of pressure on third grade teachers too. That's because they need to get their students ready for the third grade reading tests at the end of the school year, plus they get students ready for the state achievement tests which the students take early in the fourth grade year.

Irlbeck said there are many things she'll miss about teaching, including the close relationships with her students and fellow teachers. She said another thing she'll miss is "seeing the light bulb go on" when a student suddenly grasps an idea she's been trying to get across to them.

"It's a good school district and a good place to work," Irlbeck said. "There's a lot of good people here and there have been a lot of good parents too."

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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