Sue Baldwin recently pulled out some letters that were written a number of years ago. Those letters, written by students from past classes, offered fond memories of the time Baldwin has spent shaping the minds of those who called her “Miss Baldwin.”
Baldwin, who is an Owatonna native, knew from an early age she wanted to be involved in education.
“That was the only thing I have ever wanted to do,” said Baldwin, adding she had a lot of great teachers who influenced her.
In the early years of her own education Baldwin said she had the chance to work as part of a program that allowed older students to work with younger ones, and that experience, along with her time spent as a babysitter, helped to steer her toward a career that would continue for nearly 40 years.
After graduating from high school, Baldwin began her education at Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa and then finished her degree in elementary education at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
She graduated in 1980.
“In 1980 I could not find a job,” said Baldwin, adding she spent the next school year working from her hometown of Owatonna as a substitute teacher.
Then in 1981 Baldwin received a call to come and work at Reede Gray Elementary School. She has been there since, and at the end of the 2019 school year will have taught students in the Redwood Falls area for 38 years.
Over the years, Baldwin has taught students in first, second and third grade, and for a couple of years she even served in a second- and third-grade looping program that had her teaching the same students for two years in a row.
The past several years have been at the second-grade level, and even though she could find positives about teaching at all three grade levels, Baldwin said second grade has been her favorite. Second graders, explained Baldwin, are becoming more independent and, for the most part, still really love their teacher and like coming to school.
Baldwin spent her entire career at Reede Gray, and said that decision was an easy one. The good friends she has made and being part of a great school, a good church and the community as a whole have helped her connect to the place she now calls home.
As her final year in the classroom comes to an end, as she will retire at the close of the 2018-19 school year, Baldwin said she knows she will miss the kids. Just being around them and helping them experience the smallest things in their life has been very rewarding.
Baldwin said for elementary school students every day can be their best day ever.
Baldwin said she knows now is the time for her to step away from education, adding being with family will be a big part of her future. Having lost her mom, Baldwin said spending time with her dad will be a priority. She also plans to do some traveling with her sister and a niece and will find plenty of volunteer activities to keep herself busy.
As an educator who has been in the classroom for parts of four different decades, Baldwin has seen the second generation of families in her classroom, and Baldwin said she has appreciated developing connections with the families of her students over the years.
One of the most significant changes Baldwin has seen is in the area of technology.
“Technology has changed education, and those changes have not necessarily been all for the best,” said Baldwin, adding she thinks the attention span of students today is much shorter.
Yet, she added, technology has been a great tool in the classroom, too, as she has been able to use it to open doors to her students. As an example, Baldwin said her students have had the chance to watch an eagle’s nest every day, adding what those students are experiencing is something they would not be able to do on their own.
Baldwin was reminded of her earlier years in education when she was able to bring her parakeet, Sweetie, to the classroom, adding the students really enjoyed that.
Baldwin can look back with fondness on her career in education. She has impacted generations of youth in the community, and that impact will be felt long after she walks out of her classroom for the very last time.