Posted 12/01/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Barbara Guttormson estimates she has taught 750 kids over her 40-year career.
“It’s just been wonderful,” Guttormson said with a bright smile.
At the end of December, she will be retiring. She will still do some substitute teaching, but plans to spend more time pursuing her hobbies. She will be doing some traveling with her husband, David, on the pair of Gold Wings the couple bought.
“That was our present to each other when our last child graduated,” she said.
She said her husband has been very supportive of her career through the years, even though it often meant she was spending a lot of weekends and evenings working.
“He understands that this job is more than just a paycheck. It was my passion,” she said.
Guttormson was born in Valley City and moved around quite a bit. But she ended up graduating from Stanley High and considers it her hometown.
“I’ve always been a Blue Jay in my mind,” she said.
The long-time Tioga teacher is a child of teachers herself, both of whom taught in Stanley. Her mother was an English and typing teacher, and her father taught chemistry and physics.
When she started teaching in 1977, she was coming into the “beginning of a small boom,” which helped prepare her for the larger boom of the 1980s, as well as the most recent one.
She took a couple years off to raise her newborn, and when she returned to teaching, she was at Hillcrest in south Tioga.
She said the classrooms were large back then, with about 25 students, a fact she attributes to people having a lot larger families back then.
The 1980s boom didn’t really play out much at Hillcrest, she said, because most of the children of oil workers were town folk. Their kids were mostly at Central.
Out at Hillcrest, it was more the kids who lived on the farms.
“We had hay in our backyards,” she said.
Some things have changed over the years.
For many years, the classroom was mostly chalk boards and textbooks.
Guttormson recalls when computers first entered the classroom. There was no Internet, and the whole class had to share one unit.
Today, her classes are held in the new state-of-the-art, newly built rooms at Central. She teaches word processing on a touch-screen projector, called a smart board, and talks through a wireless microphone.
“Between that and the smart board, I don’t know how I taught without it,” she said.
Children of children
As the technology changed, so did the faces of the children. Over time, some of these new faces were the children of children she had previously taught.
“I have taught through two generations. That has been fun,” she said.
She even taught Mark Schmidt, president of the school board, when he was in third grade. More recently, she taught his daughters.
One of her fondest memories, she said, was going to watch her daughter play in the school band at a football game. There were some of her former students on the field. They pointed at her and said excitedly, “There’s Mrs. Guttormson!”
She also recalls the joy of teaching her own daughters when they passed through her classes.
She said as a teacher she developed a relationship with her students, and those relationships stay long after the students leave her classroom.
“They never stop being your kids. It’s just such a joy,” she said.
While Central Elementary loses a highly experienced teacher when Guttormson retires, her former students are going to be in good hands.
Kylie Davis had Guttormson as her advisory student teacher, and has been training in Guttormson’s classroom since last August.
This will be her first experience teaching full-time, but Davis said her mentor’s training has left her well prepared to take over next year.
“I think I learned more from student teaching with Mrs. Guttormson than I ever learned in college,” she said.
Davis is from Fargo but she graduated from Tioga High School after starting there her junior year.
“I’m not a native of Tioga, but I’ve always had family here,” she said.
Davis went to NDSU where she originally started out toward nursing. During that educational path, she had an impulse to pursue teaching.
“It ended up working out,” she said.
She said she’s really enjoyed the experience so far, and she excited to be heading the classroom next year.
Guttormson said Davis will do well at Central.
“She and I think alike. She’s a born teacher,” Guttormson said.