Klaustermeier knew her calling right away
It didn't take Mary Klaustermeier long to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.
"Whatever job it'd been, I always wanted to work with kids," she said. "They buy me happiness because I feel good when I'm with them."
Therefore, it became no surprise she entered the teaching profession.
Her career, which lasted 34 years including the last 28 in the Ellsworth School District, will come to an end next month when this school year is over.
If those 34 years could be described in one word, it'd be variety.
Klaustermeier has taught at all three levels--elementary, middle school and high school--during her tenure at three different places: St. Francis Catholic School in Ellsworth, Stillwater (Minn.) Junior High and back in Ellsworth.
And the variety extends to the subjects she's taught in. She started out at St. Francis in second grade, then moved to Stillwater as a Special Learning and Behavior Problems teacher and, when she returned to Ellsworth, she first was a Learning Disabilities (LD) teacher at all three levels and finally sixth grade math at the middle school.
"Change is good for you because you're not doing the same old thing," she said. She added she's loved teaching every age level because each one is unique.
After graduating from the now-defunct College of St. Theresa's in Winona, Minn., the Portage native went on her first interview to St. Francis, where she was hired.
"It was the grade level I wanted to teach," she said.
However, during those four-and-a-half years at St. Francis, she got the opportunity to work with kids who had learning difficulties and wanted to do more of that. So she went back to school while teaching and got a degree in Learning Disabilities/Reading Specialist.
That forced the switch to Stillwater for a year-and-a-half, but one phone call led her back to Ellsworth.
"It was a call from Jack Swanson, who was superintendent at the time," she said. "He said, 'how about applying in Ellsworth as a LD teacher'?
"So, I said yes and the rest is history."
Klaustermeier was a LD teacher for 17 years before switching to sixth grade math in 1996.
"They keep you young," she said about her current age of students. "You never know what they're going to come up with, say or do."
By retiring, Klaustermeier will now be able to see more of her husband, Dan, who also retired from teaching at Ellsworth High School three years ago. The couple has four daughters; Kristin, Kari and Lauren have all graduated from high school and Logan will join her older sisters in that capacity this spring.
Looking back, Klaustermeier felt Ellsworth was the perfect town to raise a family.
"I wanted my children raised in a smaller town than a big city," she said. "And these people made it fun to live here. They're so friendly and loving."
Initially, the idea of retiring didn't appease her, as she had second thoughts before handing in her letter of intent
Now, it's a different story.
"The time was right," she said. "I'm not unhappy, I still loving coming to work. I want to try some different things in life."
She hopes those different things will still include one similar thing--working with kids.
Klaustermeier's advice for parents is "let your kids know that you love them and that you take time for them."