BEMIDJI — Greg Moen was not having the best day on Wednesday when he received an email telling him he needed to clean out his desk by the end of the day. He begrudgingly complied, but when he arrived at his workplace, his whole day turned around.

Moen, who is retiring after 13 years as a science teacher at TrekNorth school, was surprised by an outpouring of love in the form of a drive-by retirement parade Wednesday afternoon.

Dozens of vehicles full of former students and colleagues lined Pine Ridge Avenue -- horns blaring -- to see him off. Most vehicles were also decked out with congratulatory signs.

“Oh my goodness gracious,” Moen kept repeating as well-wishers rolled past.

Moen wiped away tears as cards, gifts and posters piled up around him. Many cars circled the route again to come back and say "thank you" one more time.

Retiring TrekNorth teacher Greg Moen holds back tears as a surprise parade is held for him on Wednesday at TrekNorth. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Retiring TrekNorth teacher Greg Moen holds back tears as a surprise parade is held for him on Wednesday at TrekNorth. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

“Holy cow, I’m stunned,” he said, shaking his head. “That was the nicest thing that has ever happened to me. A lot of these kids that went by that I haven’t had in class for years, and they came back. That’s pretty special.”

Students lined up to share fond memories of their time in class and on field trips with Moen. Many shared laughs about his infectious sense of humor.

“A lot of the signs had phrases I’ve used over the years,” Moen explained. “Like if a kid farts, I say ‘do you need some chapstick for that windburn?”’

This phrase was displayed on a huge banner with a life-size picture of Moen.

It’s clear he made a lasting impression on many at TrekNorth. Moen has been teaching since 1985, and before coming to TrekNorth taught at Schoolcraft Learning Community. Outside of school he works as a dive master and first-aid instructor for the local dive shop and a diver for the sheriff's department dive team. When not underwater he enjoys boating, fishing and the occasional round of golf.

Moen explained that having to retire during distance learning has been tough, “At first I thought it was no big deal, and then I realized how much I miss the kids. I just love these kids.”

He was worried he wouldn’t get to see most of his students again, but that all changed when they surprised him on Wednesday.

“I thought... I’d just fade into retirement and disappear,” Moen said. “And now that’s not the case.”

Now, he is off to southern Wisconsin where he thinks he might try his luck being a train operator or a 911 dispatcher, he said.

“I’m not going to retire and sit," he said. "I’ll tell you that.”