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Living Lumberjack lives: Former students are now leaders at Bemidji High School

Bemidji High School media specialist Erin Curran helps senior Tyler Hemp check out a book before the holidays on Friday afternoon. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Bethany Wesley

BEMIDJI — Once a Lumberjack, always a Lumberjack.

A handful of staff members at Bemidji High School know this intimately.

As BHS graduates, they are now working at their alma mater.

Dave Gooch, in the technology education department; Mike Stevens, a math teacher; Rob Strand, a physical-education teacher; Rob Brink, social students teacher; Erin (Rude) Curran, media specialist; and Jenny Fraley, a counselor.

Curran and Fraley were actually classmates, who graduated BHS together in 2003.

Curran, now the media specialist, initially was hired at BHS as a social studies teacher.

“It was different,” Curran said, “to go from having former teachers being mentors and then being peers with them, it was hard at first.”

At the time, she was about 22-years-old, and some of her high school friends’ siblings were in her classes.

“That was weird, to go from being Erin their friend to Miss Rude, their teacher,” she said. “I was nervous about it at first, but it was fine. The kids were respectful.”

Since then, she has obtained her master’s degree and transitioned from her job as a teacher to being the media specialist, a position through which she manages library materials, resources and helps students with their research projects.

“It’s a different interaction,” she said. “There are some kids, avid readers, who are down here a lot, I get to know them really well. Then, as well, I have classes and can have 25 kids in here at one time.”

For Fraley, she said her younger self would be surprised to know where she is working.

“I was ready to be done and to get out of Bemidji,” she said, looking back at high school.

Similar to Curran, who was involved in sports like swimming and skiing, Fraley was a good student who was involved in music and the arts. She had a close group of friends and enjoyed the atmosphere, but was looking forward to her next life stages.

“I always assumed I would move away,” Fraley said.

She did. She graduated high school and went to college in St. Cloud, obtaining her undergraduate degree in late 2006. She then worked in the Twin Cities for several years as she obtained her graduate degree and eventually moved back.

She was hired as a counselor at BHS this past fall

“I have younger siblings so I never felt like I walked out (of the high school) in 2003 and never came back,” she said. “I came back over the years for a variety of (events).”

As for working in the school she graduated from, Fraley said it helped in that she already knew the routines and the layout.

“It’s very comfortable in the sense that I know where I’m going, I’m used to the system, the way the class schedule works, the teachers,” she said. “It’s not as strange as I thought it would be.”

In her position as counselor, Fraley said she sees students in a variety of circumstances.

“You have to be flexible because it keeps you on your toes,” she said. “It’s helping students who need support in a variety of different ways, those struggling with classes who need more support, a different plan, it could they’re struggling to find where they want to go next. It’s definitely a variety.”

She also works with different organization as they interview students as candidates for scholarships.

“It really is a variety,” Fraley said. “We have a variety of needs, which you would expect from a school with a population which itself has a diversity of needs.”