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Moerke to retire after 18 years at Hudson Middle School

Ask almost any parent in Hudson with middle school-age children or older, and they will likely remember their son or daughter's drawing of cattails in a pitcher. June Moerke taught them all how to do it.

Moerke will retire at the end of this school year after 18 years with the Hudson School District and a teaching career that has spanned more than 30 years. She started teaching in Hudson at the old middle school, now Willow River Elementary, in 1990 and spent half her time at the high school. When the current Hudson Middle School opened in 1994, she became the full-time sixth- and seventh-grade art teacher.

This year she will have taught 775 students the basics of drawing -- shading, shapes and forms, and technique. She also teaches both two- and three-dimensional art and the principles of design. The students take her class as an exploratory, which means she has them for 35 days. "And we get an awful lot accomplished in those 35 days."

Moerke said she loves working with middle school students. "It is an age group that is full of life. Everything inside and outside of them is changing. It is a challenging time to be a student and to be their teacher, but most of them are wonderful kids."

Moerke said she used to be frustrated by the limited amount of time students had for art. "I thought that they should have more art but I know that isn't feasible. My job is to expose them to as much as I can and hope it sticks with them."

Moerke says that over the years, her efforts have been rewarded. There are students she knows will continue to grow as artists when they go through school. "The students who are inspired to continue to develop their talent and blossom and end up getting scholarships and going on to art in college -- that is gratifying to see. I like to think Glen (former HMS teacher Glen Riddle) and I got them started and they are on their way."

In addition to teaching them technique and principles, Moerke said she teaches her students that there are "real jobs" out there for students who love art. "Right here in Hudson there are three companies that design logos. Everything we buy or consume is designed by somebody, whether it is a car or a boat or a cereal box. And one of them could do it. It's important that they know it isn't just about being a starving artist. There are real opportunities out there."

Moerke grew up in the small town of Macintosh, Minn., population 999. She liked art but there wasn't much of it at school -- a May basket, illustrating a book report or designing props for the school play and the skits she wrote.

At the University of Minnesota-Duluth, she majored in home economics with a minor in art and English. She taught in both small and large towns including Washburn along the Superior north shore, Duluth and Montevideo and Granite Falls, Minn., where she pioneered the idea of job sharing with another teacher.

"It wasn't done a lot back then, but I had two little girls and so did the other teacher and it worked out well for everybody."

She smiles when she recalls the time when she started up a new computer program at Granite Falls where older, gifted students developed tutoring programs for students who needed help.

"I get a kick out of that since everyone around here knows I'm kind of computer-challenged."

Moerke and her husband and daughters moved to Hudson in 1986. Her first classroom at the old middle school in a bus garage had three overhead doors. On cold days, snow would blow under them up to her desk.

She remembers the move to the new school in 1994 as an exciting time. "There was so much wonderful light and so much room. It has been a wonderful place to work."

Moerke said most things about her students haven't changed and she enjoys being around them. "There isn't a kid in this school who wouldn't hold a door for me or help me carry something if I needed it. There are far more good kids here than bad. They are nice and they are caring and I'm not sure everybody sees that."

Moerke is a big fan of the current house system for middle school age students. She believes ninth-grade students could benefit as well.

"I think it would be better to keep them for that extra year out of the high school system. Give them that extra year of more individualized attention before all the competition and stress of high school starts."

If she could give any advice to parents, she would encourage them to spend more time with their children.

"I don't mean things like going to games or events but just making sure you eat some meals together, go fishing, even doing chores together. I know it's hard when everybody is working, but the time goes by fast. Just being together is so important and maybe more important than that dance recital or that ball game."

Moerke's advice for teachers is the same as she has for students. "It's about the Golden Rule -- treat each child the way you want to be treated -- look at them, listen to them. If I have communicated that, then I have done my job. That and a sense of humor are the important things."

As for the future, Moerke and her husband, Tom, will continue to enjoy the four British car clubs they belong to and the cars, including her own MG, that they own. And she hopes to continue to run into enthusiastic former students who are glad to see her.

"Nothing is more fun than that."