Driving into retirement: Former Blackduck teacher and driving instructor retires after 40 years
BLACKDUCK -- For drivers education instructor and former teacher, Scott Anderson, 65, retirement has been a familiar road.
For the past eight years, Anderson has been leading the 30-hour required classroom portion of drivers education in Blackduck.
It was nothing new to Anderson who, at the time, had just retired from a teaching career at Blackduck High School where he taught health, physical education and drivers training.
In 2005, the role of drivers education in Blackduck was transitioning out of the formal high school curriculum that Anderson knew and into the community education program.
"When it was part of the curriculum, there was no charge to the students or the parents, it was a community service," Anderson said. "Then money became tight and it was one of those things that got cut."
He was soon approached by former community education director Sharon Twey to continue teaching drivers education - but just the classroom portion. He gladly accepted.
"It was, in a way, the perfect retirement job," Anderson said. "I taught two classes in Blackduck and one in Northome."
Each session lasted a total of two weeks. Students would attend the class for three hours a day, five days a week and move on to behind-the-wheels.
This year, when it came time to renew his instructing license, Anderson decided against it.
"To be honest, it got mundane," he said. "There was very little other than the same material and the same routine. The kids were fun to get to know but I was ready to do something else."
According to Anderson, when he first began teaching, Blackduck was graduating more than 100 students from drivers education per year. Since then, the numbers have trickled down to an all-time low of approximately 30 graduates in 2013.
During those high years, Blackduck High School also maintained a car for student driving purposes but, shortly after Anderson's retirement, when the program was withdrawn from the curriculum, the district decided not to maintain it. Now, once Blackduck students complete their classroom portion of driver's training, they must find an outside provider for behind-the-wheel instruction.
Most students choose to complete training with driving instructor, Ron Heim of Kelliher, while others choose to finish in Bemidji, Anderson said.
Staying in touch with his former students and being able to know their names and faces while being retired is something that has made Anderson's job worthwhile throughout the years. He prides the program and the community as one that puts safety first.
"This is a safe place to learn how to drive in comparison to metropolitan areas," he said. "There have been no fatalities involving my students. If there have been, its out of the area and I haven't heard about it. It's a very rare thing."
The switch to the community program also brought up a sharp spike in enrollment price, going from free to over $100.
"It was a goal of mine to keep it affordable," Anderson said. "A lot of local people would just drop it. This is an economically depressed area. It takes a lot of money to come up with that."
But, for the most part, the fees mostly went to pay for Minnesota driving manuals and to pay Anderson's teaching fee. Community education also made a small profit to keep the program alive for students in future years.
"I've really enjoyed the students most of all and getting to know them," Anderson said. "Its always a challenge to get everybody passed, and just meeting the students needs was a high point (for me). You didn't want to fail anybody, but there are always students who don't read the book or don't pass the test."
Looking back, Anderson has had a very solid and long standing career in the Blackduck community, teaching hundreds of students and later, often their children.
"Many of the students I've had, I've also had their parents," he said. "That's a remarkable thing too. There are rare students that I've had that I haven't had their parents."
Anderson is now fully retired and moving on to what retirement really is: Not working.
"It was a wonderful experience and a rewarding career," he said. "Blackduck is just a wonderful place to teach and raise a family."