Teaching young minds

March 18, 2016

In college, at Gustavus Adolphus, Mr. Degenaar dived right into polishing his own education to be the best teacher he could be. “I had a degree as a social studies teacher after 1978, and started teaching in a very small, rural, farming community in southern Minnesota called Harmony. I still remember how kids would come to school and park a tractor in the lot. I’d never seen anything like that before.”

After a year in Harmony, he moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he taught 8th grade world geography and coached basketball. In 1980, Scott Highlands Middle School opened and, through some old high school connections, he got the job as an 8th grade geography teacher back in District 196. 

“When I taught at Scott Highlands, there were no walls. I could look out my room and see eight classrooms one way and six the next. My room was ten feet away from the cafeteria, and every day after lunch they would vacuum. The noise was an issue in an open school.”

Teaching is a learning experience, not only for the students. Mr. Degenaar had a lot to handle when first teaching middle schoolers in Iowa but as time went on, he learned to juggle the demands and the joys of the job.

“My funniest experience when teaching was somehow getting roped into coaching soccer. I never played or coached, so I had to buy a book. Luckily I had the A-team kids so they knew what to do. I learned soccer from them.”

He continued to teach and coach at Scott Highlands and, later on, Rosemount High, as he went back to college to get his master and specialist degrees in secondary school administration.

Mr. Degenaar with teachers and community members from Apple Valley.
Steve Degenaar
Mr. Degenaar with teachers and community members from Apple Valley.

He originally planned to teach in the district for 20 years and then get an administrative job, but with a lucky turn of events in 1989, he landed the position of assistant principal at Simley High School. After only 11 years of teaching, he was already on the path to becoming a principal.

Five years later, he applied for the assistant principal position here at Apple Valley, and the rest is history.

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