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700 children later, Reis is retiring

After 36 years as an educator, 35 of which were spent teaching third-graders at Lindgren Elementary School, Jane Reis is retiring.

"I try to get them to think for themselves, to see more than what they read on the page," said Reis, who has taught about 700 children over the years and sees her role as that of a guide.

One of her favorite parts of the school day is the 15 minutes she spends reading aloud to the children.

"I would like to think they learn to love reading on their own and don't just get caught up in the fads of the day," said Reis.

While her students may choose fantasy books to read on their own, she always picks realistic books that emphasize values and give the children "things to think about."

Some of her current favorites are "The Sign of the Beaver" about a boy who learns the ways of Native Americans; "Murder of Hound Dog Bates" about a boy who suspects foul play in the death of his dog; and "Mick Harte Was Here," the story of a family's struggle to deal with grief.

"It wasn't something that I actually thought about doing," said Reis of the path that led her to become a teacher. She grew up on a farm near Prescott, the third oldest of nine children.

Her older sister and brother went into education. After Reis started college at River Falls, teaching seemed the natural route for her too.

She did her practice teaching at Prairie View and was then hired at Lindgren. One year when third-grade enrollments were lower at Lindgren, she returned to Prairie View and worked as the SAGE teacher there. Student Achievement Guarantee in Education is designed to improve student achievement partly by having classes of 15 children or less.

Reis said children come to third grade old enough to know what needs to be done in school, but still young enough not to be sure of themselves or of their ability to make decisions.

Because she has been a timid child herself, Reis first thought she would nurture the quiet ones.

"I thought those little ones who are shy, I'll bring them out."

But, she said, she soon learned that was not to be her role.

"I feel I learned right along with them," said Reis. New materials and different projects kept the teacher learning too.

Children have changed since her early years in teaching, said Reis. "It used to be they were more willing to take directions and they'd stay in their seats."

Now, she said, children are up and doing things and it takes longer to get them to follow along.

"I think they're bold and more demanding," she said of today's children.

But, she added, a lot more is expected of them in terms of curriculum and students today have traveled more, seen more movies and been exposed to more than children 35 years ago.

A major goal in third grade is to help children become independent readers and learn to do research, said Reis.

"They have a hard time following directions because they want to do it their way," said Reis.

Sometimes, she said, she'll give directions and think the children are settled down, ready to tackle a project.

"I'll ask does anybody need anything, and somebody comes up (and says) I need a pencil or my tooth is loose."

Reis sees third grade as a transition time. Some children are ready to rush ahead while others are holding back because they aren't sure they're ready.

Parents often credit teachers with accomplishing something with a particular child, when actually the teacher had simply been there when the child reached the point where he was ready to take off, said Reis. She said her role is often to just be there at the right time.

"Every day is different," said Reis. "You get going and you just have to keep going because there are so many decisions you have to make on the spur of the moment."

As for retirement, Reis said she plans to do some traveling with her sisters and has a lot of neglected quilting projects waiting for her.

"I have a lot that I want to complete and a lot that I want to start."

She also plans to work on her house, which she bought eight years ago and still hasn't had time to "make it mine."