“George Ramseth called me one day. He said they needed an English teacher and asked if I was interested,” said new Redwood Valley Hall of Fame inductee Barb Darr; "He was my mom and dad’s principal. I knew about him, and at that time in Buffalo Lake George Ramseth was a legend.”
Growing up in Buffalo Lake, Barb Darr knew one thing for sure.
She was going to be a teacher, and for parts of five different decades Darr did just that for thousands of students in the local school district.
After graduating from Buffalo Lake High School, Darr earned her education degree, focusing on English and speech, from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. She graduated from college in 1965.
Then one day out of the blue she got a phone call from someone she had known back in Buffalo Lake.
“George Ramseth called me one day. He said they needed an English teacher and asked if I was interested,” said Darr, who then visited with Ramseth and was offered a contract. “He was my mom and dad’s principal. I knew about him, and at that time in Buffalo Lake George Ramseth was a legend.”
Darr, who spent her entire teaching career in Redwood Falls, began teaching English to seventh graders.
“I started with seventh graders and finished with seventh graders,” she said.
Over the years, Darr has also taught students in Grades 6, 8 and 9, but it was always English.
Darr said being an English teacher stems from her experience in school.
“I had a high school English teacher who was really, really good,” said Darr, adding she stressed more than just learning to read but reading to learn, and that became an important element in how Darr taught, too.
Darr said she stressed with her students there is always something one is able to learn from reading.
Darr, who spent much of her career in the old Lincoln School, said she also assisted with the debate team (she could not recall why that program ended) and served as a coach for the junior high speech team.
As the new school opened, Darr and other teachers who would be part of the new middle school program focused on learning whatever they could to meet the needs of the students in Grades 5-8.
One of the elements Darr worked significantly on was the new reading program that took what had been established under the previous elementary and junior high program to the next level.
In those days, said Darr, students were taught reading through sixth grade, and those who did not meet the goals in reading continued that program in Grade 7.
The new philosophy added reading as part of the curriculum through the eighth grade, and focused on a novel-based approach.
The program, which was cutting edge at the time, led the middle school staff to present their program to others who were interested in how it was working.
“Our work helped to put the school on the map,” she said.
Darr also said the school got away from ability grouping and moved to heterogeneous grouping, as she said no matter what you called the groups students know who was in what group.
Darr retired in 2009, and said she knew the time was right, because she had a differing opinion about standardized testing.
“All of that testing is putting too much stress on the students and the teachers, too,” said Darr.
Darr’s teaching experience also included teaching speech to the students in the high school’s alternative learning program, and she said it was nice to be able to reconnect with students she’d taught in the middle school.
When asked about her induction into the Redwood Valley Hall of Fame, Darr said there are not words to describe that feeling one gets when they are selected.
“It’s certainly something I never, ever anticipated,” she said. “I did a job I loved, and I loved it all the while I was doing it. It was the best job I ever could have had.”
It is, she said, a whole new level of feeling that sense of accomplishment one gets out of doing a job they enjoy.
Darr surmised over her years she has molded the equivalent of an entire community of students during a very formative part of their lives, and she said if she had to do her life all over again she would do things exactly the same.