In 1966 Jim Darr was working as a fire jumper for the U.S. Forest Service when he decided to make a last minute trip to Redwood Falls to see if that teaching job was still available....
Jim Darr has always loved the outdoors.
So earning a degree in biology from the Morris campus of the University of Minnesota made sense.
The issue for Darr, however, was finding a job in his field in 1965.
“There was not much available,” said Darr.
So, he went back to college and earned an education degree in 1966.
Darr then began searching for a job, and as he would search this position in Redwood Falls kept coming up. Ultimately he made a phone call.
“I called Reede Gray,” said Darr, adding that was on a Friday. “He asked if I could come down to do an interview Saturday.”
So, Darr headed south.
Darr who had a job working as a fire jumper for the U.S. Forest Service, was supposed to be heading west that Saturday but delayed that trip to come down and meet with school officials, including Gray, George Ram-seth and C.O. Halvorson.
Darr said he had always heard about Redwood Falls when he heard the weather, as it always seems to be the warmest temp in the state.
A week after heading back to northern Minnesota, Darr received a letter offering him the job as seventh grade life science teacher and assistant varsity wrestling coach.
“I had no wrestling experience,” said Darr, adding he had been involved in athletics as a student at Parkers Prairie High School (graduating class of 1961).
Darr, who had started life in Nebraska, moved with his family to northern Minnesota during some dry years for those involved in agriculture.
The family bought a dairy operation in the Parkers Prairie area, and Darr finished with Grade 8 at a small country school before moving high school in the big city of Parkers Prairie.
After starting his career in seventh grade, Darr progressively moved up the chain, teaching eighth grade earth science, ninth grade physical science and then 10th grade biology in consecutive years.
“There was one class which had me for science four years in a row,” said Darr, adding in those days the class sizes were much larger with 30-35 students in what he described as small classrooms.
Darr then took over the role of teaching biology which he did until he retired 13 years ago this spring.
“For me biology was a no-brainer,” said Darr.
Darr, who had played college football until an injury forced him to retire.
His time in football continued, however, as a coach first for the B-squad and then coaching the seventh and eighth grade program.
Darr continued coaching wrestling for more than a decade working much of that time with the youngest of the sport’s athletes.
As most students needed at least one science credit to graduate, Darr had the vast majority of students come through his classroom.
“There were some students who took ag science classes, but there were few students who did not take biology,” explained Darr.
Darr’s approach to teaching, he said, really was not any different than that of other educators, as he said he did not just focus on those who were the most interested in his class.
“Education more than just about academics,” said Darr, adding he always took time to focus on those students he knew would have preferred to be someplace else than in his room.
Darr, who said he has many memories of his time in the classroom, said it is surprising that students who never seemed to be paying attention came up to him later to thank him for what he taught them in his class.
“You never know which ones you are going to touch when they are in your classroom,” he said.
In the late 80s, Darr took on a role he continues today in the school – equipment manager. He said the role allows him to keep involved in the lives of kids and to be doing something.
Darr, whose career im-pacted generations of students, is going to be inducted into the Redwood Valley Hall of Fame May 1, and he said the whole idea is a tremendous honor.
“I was totally surprised,” he said. “It’s not something you really expect. I never really considered myself as anything more than just another teacher. I just did what all teachers did.”
Darr and his wife, Barb, are both being inducted into the hall of fame this year.
They have three children who all attended school locally, including Allison, Chad and David.