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Opinion-Still a great place to teach- Life's landmarks take priority

Ahhhh!!! It is one of my favorite times of year, when we greet the new teachers (and staff) hired by the Hudson School District as well as St. Patrick School and Trinity Academy. Normally, I would have been one of the first to greet the 30 new district staff members early on Tuesday morning. I photograph the newest members in preparation for introducing them to the community. This year my fellow staffers are filling in for me, due to a family emergency. In the past it has been a joy to see the enthusiasm, energy and excitement as each of them pause to be photographed individually or in groups divided by school building.

This year, is probably no different, the new hires are no doubt thrilled to have a job; secondly they are no doubt happy to be in our district.

I started to ponder this column months ago, when a teacher friend, I believe we have agreed to disagree, commented no one would want to teach in Wisconsin and that the quality of the teachers applying would decline due to the change in the collective bargaining laws. That belief was reiterated by my fellow journalist in a column as well.

The numbers present a different story. This year the district had 200 applicants for the elementary teacher positions; about 50 each for the Middle and High School subject area positions and special education openings. The only position that was difficult to fill was the Chinese language teacher. According the Nancy Sweet, Deputy Director and Director of Human Resources, there is a national shortage in this area, however last week the district secured an excellent teacher for the position as well. This year the only administrative opening, associate principal at the high school was filled internally.

Sweet went on to say that "Due to our electronic application process and other connections we gain applicants from across the nation and globally."

Last year was no different, with 106 applicants for the principal's position at Rivercrest Elementary and an average of 25 or more applicants for each of the other positions open last year. In other words, hundreds of applicants wanted to work in Hudson. This year is no exception.

Last May and June, as I traveled from school building to building to interview retiring teachers, I noted that the buildings were nearly as pristine at the close of the year as they were in the beginning. I have written on more than one occasion about the quality of our district from the bricks and mortar to the quality of the teachers and everything else that makes up our exceptional district. This alone combined with the quality of life in Hudson and the immediate surrounding area would entice applicants to our area and I believe throughout Wisconsin. On the list of what makes a job desirable, the level of pay generally falls below other considerations, including working environment and livability of the area.

I will be the first to acknowledge we as a community, state and nation are moving into uncharted territory. In my opinion though, teachers and good ones will continue to seek out our district and our state.

With the relaxation in the union rules, we may even find some quality teachers, who left the field coming back to their profession.

"My coach John story."

That was what my all time favorite teacher called it yesterday.

Mr. M (a neighbor to my parents) stopped to see how my dad was recovering. He was my high school biology teacher. Long after I graduated and went on to college he went on to be an elementary school administrator and served on the school board of my high school. So he has witnessed, worked and volunteer at many levels of education in the state of Wisconsin.

Our conversation ultimately turned to the tumult and turmoil that began in February, with the teachers union (massively supported by other labor unions) at the heart of the matter.

"Let me tell you my coach John story, it is why I became a teacher."

As a senior in high school, Mr. M was pulled out of class by the basket ball coach, John Erickson at the beginning of the year. Erickson enrolled him in senior English and physics instead of shop classes.

Mr. M is still not sure to this day, why Erickson chose him, as one of seven children, none of them expected to go to college. Throughout the school year, Erickson, created opportunities for Mr. M., for example when he didn't make the basket ball team, he kept him involved in management of the team.

Erickson, was taking a couple of basketball members to Stevens Point, to look at the campus and arranged for Mr. M to go along.

"When we came home, I was enrolled and everything was arranged for me to go to college in the fall. I went home and told mom, I guess I am going to college."

Mr. M. is not sure how many other students Erickson may have helped in the same way. But it changed Mr. M's life forever, single teacher, taking that extra interest in a student.

It was why Mr. M. went on to become a teacher.

It is a noble profession, a profession...