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Long-time teachers are ready to call it a career

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HARTINGTON — For the first time in 66 years, Terry Hagen will not be preparing to go back to school in August.

“I can’t wait to just hit the snooze button,” he said.

Hagen – along with second-grade teacher Julie Hefner – will both be retiring this month, after decades of dedication at Hartington-Newcastle schools.

In 1976, Hagen started at Hartington Public Schools and he’s been there ever since – teaching eighth through 12th grade Math including Algebra I, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus classes. He also taught computer programming in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Hefner started in Hartington as an elementary music teacher and as other teachers retired, she took their place – teaching first grade and then second.

“I fell in love with this community and school and spent my whole teaching career here for 38 years,” she said

With decades of teaching under their belts, Hefner and Hagen have seen many major changes in education – mainly in technology.

“One change that sticks out in my mind is going from mimeograph to copy machines,” Hagen said, as well as the transition from chalkboard to marker board to smart board, as well as the predominance of cell phones and 1:1 computers.

Technology was crucial to continuing education during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, Hefner said.

“This wasn’t easy by no means, but teachers embraced distance learning and learned to adapt – that’s what teachers do,” she said.

Hefner said she’s enjoyed working with her students and building strong relationships with them and their families. Hagen said he’s grateful to have taught his two daughters, Heidi, and Heather, as well as three generations of one local family.

One of Hefner’s fondest teaching memories is teaming up with Art Teacher Laura Noecker to create a paleontologist experience for her second graders.

“High school art students would bury clay bones behind our playground for second graders to dig up. The kids would then lay out the bones in the classroom to discover what dinosaur they created. This tradition continued for 25 years,” Hefner said.

Hagen said he will look back fondly at his time at Hartington-Newcastle especially when Hartington beat out Class A schools in computer programming contests. And graduation is always a highlight – watching students proceed to the next stage in life, he said.

Hagen plans to become a professional grandpa and a semi-professional fisherman during retirement.

His toy collection and finding treasures at garage sales will keep him busy, he said. Hefner is looking forward to traveling and spending time with her grandchildren as well.

Hefner said she is happy to end her teaching career on a high note after the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought during this last academic year.

“At the beginning of this academic year, teachers worked really hard to fill in the gaps, while addressing social and emotional needs and safety concerns. Masks became normal as well as socially distancing to keep kids safe in school,” she said “I'm so thankful we got to stay in the classroom, build relationships together, have face to face interactions and learn from each other. It turned out to be a very successful year.”

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