Saying good-bye. Long-time Central teachers retiring

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Julie Duff

Anne Franta

Carolyn Yanda

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


Three Central teachers with a combined 100-plus years of classroom experience will retire when the current school year ends in June.

The Central School Board last week accepted the resignations of Julie Duff, Anne Franta and Carolyn Yanda. Counselor Shelby Huster, who was hired last summer, also resigned. She has accepted another position. School nurse Vickie Carolan earlier announced her retirement.

There’s no accurate way to calculate the number of students whose lives have been touched by Duff, Franta and Yanda, though an estimate of several hundred would not be an exaggeration. Duff, who teaches in the combined 2/3-grade class, has been at Central for 38 years. Vocal music teacher Franta has been there for 23, and English instructor Yanda for a decade.

Here’s a look at the three teachers whose far-reaching influence on generations of young minds is undeniable.

Julie Duff

A Fort Dodge native, Duff attended St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, for two years with the intention of becoming a math teacher. She later decided that teaching at the elementary level was her true passion. Since St. Olaf didn’t have offer an elementary major she transferred to Luther College where she earned her degree in 1979.

“My dad drove me to my interview in Elkader that summer,” Duff recalled. I went to the high school office by mistake, and they directed me to the business office down the block.  I remember that Bill McHugh gave me a tour of the school, and there were so many stairs, twists, and turns I had no idea where I had been. I was working at JCPenney in Fort Dodge when I got the call that I got the job, and I was thrilled.  I moved into the upstairs apartment in the home across from the school where Mary Lee Witt now lives. It was the weekend of Sweet Corn Days. I remember my mother was impressed with the number of tractors in the parade.”

A few years into her tenure at Central, Duff decided to pursue a master’s degree and then move to a larger community. She followed through on part of her plan—Duff earned her MA in 1986. By then, she was married to recently retired Elkader Police Chief Marvin Duff, and they decided to raise their family here. They have two children, Alan, a 2011 Coe College graduate and software tester who lives in Minneapolis, and Lara, a 2014 graduate of UNI, who works in customer service at Alpine Communications.

Duff spent the first 13 years of her career teaching first graders.

 “Barb Chandler and Arlene Schoien were my mentors in those early years,” Duff said. “It seems like we were always laughing about something.  I remember Arlene putting up a bulletin board that she had made of two children sitting side-by-side looking at a book in their lap.  She was really proud of it until she noticed that somehow the two children had five legs!”

Duff also fondly remembers a breakfast unit that involved one class making muffins, another making jelly and the third class fixing eggs.

“By the time we got eggs scrambled for all those kids it was almost time for lunch,” said Duff.

Duff was reassigned to third grade in 1992 where she forged lasting friendships with other third grade teachers who, over the years, have included Ann Gibney, Tracy Follon and Tracey Kuehl. 

“My mother used to say that she enjoyed being a parent during all of the stages of our lives,” said Duff. “I feel the same way about being a teacher. I love it when a former student greets me on the street with ‘Hello, Miss Raney!’  or I see a gentleman looking very dignified in a suit and remember how he came to school one day in first grade wearing his grandma’s wig, orange high heels, and did an Elvis imitation playing a tennis racket for a guitar. I have been very blessed to teach at Central for 38 years and will treasure the memories. “

Anne Franta

Franta began teaching in 1978 after earning her music education degree at the University of Northern Iowa. Central was not her first school, however.

“I began my teaching career in Alaska,” Franta said. “I taught music is 12 one-room schools located in the southeast Alaska bush. It was an amazing experience! There were no roads to these schools, which were all located on islands. I had to travel by floatplane.”

Franta also taught in Waterloo for a year before coming to Central in 1993. She was originally hired to teacher vocal music to students in grades 7 through 12. Six years ago, that was expanded to grades 6-12. For the past five years, she has taught K-3 general music and 6-12 vocal music.

When asked about the changes she’s seen over the course of her career, the influence of technology tops Franta’s list.

“When I began my career in music if we listened to a recording of a song in class, we put on a vinyl record,” recalled Franta.  “Later that changed to cassette tapes.  (I think we skipped 8-track, I must have been gone the week those were popular.)  Then came CDs.  Now students can listen to digital downloads.”

The highlights of Franta’s career include performing at Disney World in 1998, a year that saw over 100 students in high school chorus; having students perform the National Anthem at state sports tournaments; and, in 2004, receiving the Exemplary Music Program award from the Iowa Music Educators Association, which is given annual to just one school.

Though she has no special retirement plans, Franta hopes that she and her husband John will be able to spend more time with their four grown children, Matt, Ben, Katie and Molly.

“Three of them live in California, so we don’t get to see them very often,” she added.

Teaching is a career with its shares of ups and downs but Franta knows her toughest day is yet to come. It will be the day she says good-bye.

 Said Franta, “I have often been asked what the hardest part of teaching is.  For me it was saying goodbye to the seniors every year. I always thought that would get easier over the years, but it never did. I guess this year I will be leaving with them.”

“Central has been a wonderful place to be for the past 23 years,” she concluded. “I enjoyed going to work every day and I feel very grateful for the opportunity to share my love of music with these great students.”

Carolyn Yanda

Yanda and her husband, Dan, who is Central’s high school principal and athletic director, moved to Elkader 13 years ago. Yanda has been teaching various English classes at Central for a decade. A Central College graduate with degrees in French and English, she also studied one semester at the University of Paris-Sorbonne.

Yanda’s first teaching assignment was at Crystal Lake, IA. She then taught in Tipton, IA for 22 years before her family moved here.

While technology has had a big impact on Yanda’s work, she also mentions standards-based grading as a significant change.

“For well over a decade, I have felt we should do away with grades,” Yanda said. “Being allowed to challenge tradition and pilot a standards-based system has been exciting. While we still convert the final grades to letters, we are now looking more at what students actually know and can do rather than how many points they can accumulate to be averaged.”

The only downside of her work has been time—or, more accurately, its lack.

“As the years have gone on, it seems teachers have been given more and more to do,” Yanda said. “Budget cuts mean teachers have more classes, more students, more duties. The only thing that has not increased is the time. But the rewards are great: the face of a student who finally “gets it,” alumni reaching out to say thank you, smiles in the hall, professional and dedicated colleagues.”

As far as her retirement plans are concerned, Yanda hopes to spend more time with her family. The Yanda have three children, two of whom are Central graduates. Their oldest daughter lives in Tipton with her husband and son. She’s a researcher at the University of Iowa. Their middle child, also a daughter, graduated from Central in 2007, UNI in 2011 and AT Still University in Mesa, AZ. She lives and works in the san Francisco area as an athletic trainer. The couple’s only son graduated from Central in 2009 and UNI in 2013. He lives in Mumbai, India, where he teaches Spanish and French.

“I will definitely miss interacting daily with students,” Yanda said. “But I have several hobbies and project that have been on hold and I would like to pursue them again I also hope to do a lot of traveling.”

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