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Sue Bruns, assistant principal at Bemidji High School, is retiring this summer after working for Bemidji Area Schools for more than 30 years. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Saying goodbye to Sue Bruns: Retiring assistant principal looks forward to new life adventures

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Since she was 5 years old, Sue Bruns, assistant principal at Bemidji High School, has drummed to the beat of a school schedule.

Now, after working 35 years in education, Bruns is retiring and hoping to complete a unique personal achievement that doesn't involve books, desks or homework.

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A few years ago Bruns set a goal for herself to bike 50 miles in each of the 50 states in her 50s. So far she has biked through16 states.

"I'm hoping in my first year out of school to at least double that number," said Bruns, who is an avid biker.

While Bruns knows she may not complete her goal within three years before she turns 60, retirement will certainly give her a little bit more time for traveling, which she looks forward to.

Bruns, originally from St. Peter, Minn., came to Bemidji to attend Bemidji State University to become a teacher.

"When I drove up here for the very first time to register for classes, I was somewhere around Akeley when I rolled the windows down and I remember the smell of pine was so strong," she said.

After she graduated, a teaching job opened in Bemidji, and she taught as a senior high English teacher for 20 years before becoming an administrator.

As a new teacher, Bruns said her dream goal was to teach kids how to write. In looking back, she said she feels she has achieved her goal.

"My last year of teaching had been my best year in the classroom, and it had to do with fabulous kids in my class," she said. "I still hear from people who say, 'You really helped me feel like I could write.'"

When she retires, Bruns said, she hopes to write a memoir on all the lessons she's learned as an educator.

In her first year as assistant principal, Bruns said the main criticism she received was that she took too long with students.

"I never learned how to do it fast," she said. "There's always something behind someone. If you care enough to get to know them, it's easier to work with them."

Bruns said, as assistant principal, she won't miss the tedious things, like dealing with attendance and detentions, but she will miss the students and parents she's gotten to know over the years.

"The most satisfying thing about this job is working with kids and parents and feeling like I've lined them up with the right help," she said. "There are a lot of people I'll miss."

Bruns has learned a lot since she started as an educator three decades ago. She has seen drastic changes in technology, curriculum and learning space.

"I grew up with technology creeping into schools. It's been a real ride," she said.

She remembers the shock of discovering the Internet and hearing other teachers comment that their students were four steps ahead of them in learning how to use it.

But of all the changes Bruns experienced as a teacher and administrator, she is most grateful for schools having to meet national standards.

"As much as people complain about state and national standards, I'm thankful we're going in that direction," she said.

Bruns said national standards give students in Bemidji the same opportunities academically as students in other states. She also said new teachers can benefit from having set standards.

"When I started teaching, there were no objectives," Bruns said. "New teachers had to reinvent the wheel and we had to go with just our passions."

Bruns commented on the No Child Left Behind Act saying it is a wonderful concept, but has an unreasonable expectation.

"We shouldn't leave any child behind," she said. "But the idea that 100 percent of us are going to be perfect is unreasonable. We would never say 100 percent of the population will be cancer-free by 2014."

In looking to the future, Bruns said she expects to see hybrid classes taught in the senior high that combine online learning with in-class learning. She also noted she hopes students will get to use iPads in school.

"I've been wanting for years to have iPads instead of text books," she said. "Wow, if every kid had one instead of carrying around a backpack that weighs 50 pounds, you'd have this light piece of equipment that you can update at any given moment."

Bruns said she has always disliked the state-mandated day-after-Labor-Day start of the school year and said it should be a local decision.

"Kids are ready to be here and parents are ready to send them to school in August," she said. "We get more done in August then they do in June. Nobody in Bemidji enjoys being in school in June."

In looking back at her career as a teacher and an administrator, Bruns said she is most proud of developing a credit recovery program at the high school.

"That was kind of my 'baby,'" she said. "We've had hundreds of kids stay in school and makeup credits. I'm really proud of that."

She added she is also proud of the outdoor classrooms and the ski trails at the high school. Bruns said she was finally able to help with spring tree planting last year at the school.

"My work with the school forest was real important to me," she said. "I wish I would've been able to do more. It's nice to have that outdoor classroom."

In thinking of what retirement will be like, Bruns said she is unsure of what to think yet.

"I think it's going to take me a year to feel like I'm not on a school schedule," Bruns said. "Maybe next fall I'll know what it really feels like."

For Bruns, education has been her whole life. She doesn't see that part of her life coming to an end.

"I think I'm going to take a year to test the waters and not make any commitments to anything," she said. "I see myself going back to school. I don't ever want to stop learning."

Y awilliams@bemidjipioneer.com

Since she was 5 years old, Sue Bruns, assistant principal at Bemidji High School, has drummed to the beat of a school schedule.

Now, after working 35 years in education, Bruns is retiring and hoping to complete a unique personal achievement that doesn't involve books, desks or homework.

A few years ago Bruns set a goal for herself to bike 50 miles in each of the 50 states in her 50s. So far she has biked through16 states.

"I'm hoping in my first year out of school to at least double that number," said Bruns, who is an avid biker.

While Bruns knows she may not complete her goal within three years before she turns 60, retirement will certainly give her a little bit more time for traveling, which she looks forward to.

Bruns, originally from St. Peter, Minn., came to Bemidji to attend Bemidji State University to become a teacher.

"When I drove up here for the very first time to register for classes, I was somewhere around Akeley when I rolled the windows down and I remember the smell of pine was so strong," she said.

After she graduated, a teaching job opened in Bemidji, and she taught as a senior high English teacher for 20 years before becoming an administrator.

As a new teacher, Bruns said her dream goal was to teach kids how to write. In looking back, she said she feels she has achieved her goal.

"My last year of teaching had been my best year in the classroom, and it had to do with fabulous kids in my class," she said. "I still hear from people who say, 'You really helped me feel like I could write.'"

When she retires, Bruns said, she hopes to write a memoir on all the lessons she's learned as an educator.

In her first year as assistant principal, Bruns said the main criticism she received was that she took too long with students.

"I never learned how to do it fast," she said. "There's always something behind someone. If you care enough to get to know them, it's easier to work with them."

Bruns said, as assistant principal, she won't miss the tedious things, like dealing with attendance and detentions, but she will miss the students and parents she's gotten to know over the years.

"The most satisfying thing about this job is working with kids and parents and feeling like I've lined them up with the right help," she said. "There are a lot of people I'll miss."

Bruns has learned a lot since she started as an educator three decades ago. She has seen drastic changes in technology, curriculum and learning space.

"I grew up with technology creeping into schools. It's been a real ride," she said.

She remembers the shock of discovering the Internet and hearing other teachers comment that their students were four steps ahead of them in learning how to use it.

But of all the changes Bruns experienced as a teacher and administrator, she is most grateful for schools having to meet national standards.

"As much as people complain about state and national standards, I'm thankful we're going in that direction," she said.

Bruns said national standards give students in Bemidji the same opportunities academically as students in other states. She also said new teachers can benefit from having set standards.

"When I started teaching, there were no objectives," Bruns said. "New teachers had to reinvent the wheel and we had to go with just our passions."

Bruns commented on the No Child Left Behind Act saying it is a wonderful concept, but has an unreasonable expectation.

"We shouldn't leave any child behind," she said. "But the idea that 100 percent of us are going to be perfect is unreasonable. We would never say 100 percent of the population will be cancer-free by 2014."

In looking to the future, Bruns said she expects to see hybrid classes taught in the senior high that combine online learning with in-class learning. She also noted she hopes students will get to use iPads in school.

"I've been wanting for years to have iPads instead of text books," she said. "Wow, if every kid had one instead of carrying around a backpack that weighs 50 pounds, you'd have this light piece of equipment that you can update at any given moment."

Bruns said she has always disliked the state-mandated day-after-Labor-Day start of the school year and said it should be a local decision.

"Kids are ready to be here and parents are ready to send them to school in August," she said. "We get more done in August then they do in June. Nobody in Bemidji enjoys being in school in June."

In looking back at her career as a teacher and an administrator, Bruns said she is most proud of developing a credit recovery program at the high school.

"That was kind of my 'baby,'" she said. "We've had hundreds of kids stay in school and makeup credits. I'm really proud of that."

She added she is also proud of the outdoor classrooms and the ski trails at the high school. Bruns said she was finally able to help with spring tree planting last year at the school.

"My work with the school forest was real important to me," she said. "I wish I would've been able to do more. It's nice to have that outdoor classroom."

In thinking of what retirement will be like, Bruns said she is unsure of what to think yet.

"I think it's going to take me a year to feel like I'm not on a school schedule," Bruns said. "Maybe next fall I'll know what it really feels like."

For Bruns, education has been her whole life. She doesn't see that part of her life coming to an end.

"I think I'm going to take a year to test the waters and not make any commitments to anything," she said. "I see myself going back to school. I don't ever want to stop learning."

awilliams@bemidjipioneer.com

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