Going to the principal's office is a little different this year at Erik Ramstad Middle School, since the school is currently being housed at the Minot Municipal Auditorium. Last summer's flood left the original Ramstad school heavily damaged and unavailable for any use.
Jim Tschetter, principal of Ramstad, started teaching technology education classes in 1975 at Minot High School-Central Campus, took a few years off to pursue a master's degree in business at the University of North Dakota, came back to teaching and has been in a school setting ever since.
Tschetter said he was in the Army for two years and then decided that since he liked kids, liked school, and wanted to be around kids, he would go into teaching. His brother was going to school to be a shop teacher and Tschetter liked shop class, so he thought it would be a fun area to go into, too.
Jill Hambek/MDN • Jim Tschetter, principal of Erik Ramstad Middle School, sits at his desk in his office. Ramstad school is currently being housed at the Minot Auditorium since the original school was damaged beyond repair in last summer’s flood and Tschetter is retiring after this school year. He has been working in the school environment for 35 years.
If he wouldn't have been a teacher, though, Tschetter said he would've been an architect because he likes drawing, or else he'd have gone into construction since he likes to build things.
As the principal of a middle school, Tschetter said he deals a lot with the kids and staff. He said he organizes where the district is headed and helps to enable teachers to do the best they can do. Also in the job, he noted, is disciplining kids and maintaining order.
Tschetter arrives at school at 6:30 a.m., does paperwork, and then the kids come in, he said. After that, he explained there are regular meetings with teachers, meetings with teachers about students, and classroom observations of teachers, and that goes until 4:30 or 5 p.m. Tschetter also said he eats lunch at school because he likes school food and being with the kids. He said coming to work is like "jumping into a moving stream. You just have to go along with it and see where it takes you."
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A favorite part about teaching for Tschetter is seeing kids and teachers succeed, he said. He works with some of his former students and he likes developing relationships with them and people in the community. "I get to meet a lot of people," he remarked.
His least favorite thing about his job is dealing with the paperwork that goes with the applicable federal and government policies for the school.
"I like that the least," Tschetter noted. "I would rather deal with people."
However, one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is to see kids who were students in the school become successful, he said. Tschetter taught drafting for a number of years, he stated, and a number of the kids in his classes are now in construction. "I just hired one to do some construction work with some of the flood repairs," he said.
The biggest change that Tschetter said he's seen is with social media and technology. "I deal with that on a weekly and daily basis," he added. Social media and technology are a part of students' lives more now than they ever were, Tschetter said. Both of those have also changed the way teachers interact with and teach the kids, he said, and now if a student asks a question or wants to know about something, the teacher can bring up the information right away.
Tschetter planned to retire from the school life after this year since his wife retired last year, he said.
"It just worked out right to retire at this time," he added. In his retirement, Tschetter said he has some construction plans, as well as plans to spend some time at Lake Sakakawea and Lake Metigoshe. He said he also has plans to hunt, fish and travel. "I plan to be pretty busy," he said.
The staff and students, though, are who Tschetter said he'll miss the most next year.
"It's been my way of life for a long time. There will be some withdrawal, I think. Middle school kids are fun," he said.
In the near future, Erik Ramstad Middle School will be in their new building by August of 2013, Tschetter stated, which is what they're looking at now. He said he's hoping they'll be able to keep the new gymnasium built as an addition to the flooded school that was only used for the second half of the school year in 2011, and maybe Ramstad or some other school or organization will be able to use it.
"I've been blessed with a family who have supported me in this," Tschetter said about his teaching career. "I would like to (work in this school) when my grandkids go through, but I can't stick around here forever."