Four decades of teaching
Dennis Muffenbier’s plan was to work until age 50 and then retire to the easy life.
Well, his plan changed somewhat. Retirement will come 20 years later for the Balta area native.
The long-time educator will retire from teaching this week, ending quite a career, which included time at a country school, Orrin, Fillmore, Rolette and eventually Rugby’s district.
“I’ve had some nice kids to work with, especially the last few years,” he said. “I’m going to miss them.”
Dennis has pondered retirement for a few years, but this felt like the right time to step away, he says.
Taught first at a country school
His baptism into education began in the country schools where he taught for three years in the Brazil District southwest of Rugby.
Teaching was one of the few jobs available upon graduating from high school, and being in a one-room country school was quite an experience. He eventually received his two-year standard degree from Minot State Teachers College and then taught 13 more years, including assignments in Orrin, Fillmore and Rolette. He would later return to college to finish his education degree.
In Rugby’s district, Dennis taught in the junior high level for a time and was physical education teacher at Ely Elementary, but the majority of his career was spent in Title One instruction.
As a Title One teacher, Dennis works closely with a number of fourth through sixth grade students identified as needing additional instruction. In addition to working at Ely, he spends his mornings with students at Little Flower School.
The two main areas he works in are math and language arts. For some students it may be a difficulty in reading comprehension or cognitive understanding. In math, it may be a challenge to grasp the subject content.
Learning is not an exact science, and what works to reach one student doesn’t always work with another. And that’s where teachers have to be creative in developing learning concepts. However, one important element must be in place, and that’s a student’s will to try.
“It really bothers me that kids don’t try and miss out on so many basic concepts,” he said. “And they struggle (later) when they need to know them.”
Fortunately, more often than not students do possess the desire to learn, and they can succeed with hard work. That’s one of the rewards for a teacher, he says.
Over the years there have been changes in the various tools and programs used in education.
Technology has been the biggest change that has come about, and computers and the Internet have become tools students are being introduced to at earlier ages.
New federal programs and regular standard testing have caused educators to speed up the learning pace for young students. Sociyoung students. Societal change has meant less time for many parents to be involved in their children’s educational development. And teachers bear greater responsibility in making sure students are keeping up.
Jason Gullickson, Ely Elementary principal, said Dennis’ experience in Title One instruction will be missed. He has done a wonderful job working with students.
Muffenbier doesn’t regret the career path he chose but comments how today there are more career options and wonders if he would have pursued something different if the opportunities had been there.
One of two jobs
Dennis is retiring from his full-time job but plans to continue working as a certified nursing assistant at the Heart of America Medical Center (HAMC) for a few more years. He’s worked at the long term care unit and Haaland Home part-time since 1975. Muffenbier said the job keeps him on his feet, moving around, and that’s good, since much of his time at school is sitting at a desk.
Tending to the garden, visiting children and grandchildren will be among the items on the do list for Dennis and his wife, Myrna.
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