For the past several years, Sue Tiffany and Nan Grejtak have helped to fill in the gaps for students in the Redwood Area School District. As of the end of the most recent school year, both of them have opted to step down from their roles at the school and to “retire.”
While retirement insinuates one has completed their tasks related to the job from which they are retiring that is not the whole story with this pair.
Tiffany, who has been helping students to better grasp math concepts for a number of years, is stepping down from her math specialist role, but she said that doesn’t mean she won’t be around the school anymore.
Grejtak, who has served as a teaching assistant for more than 16 years, is moving away from that role, but she is not stepping away from education.
Tiffany said she knows there are still going to be plenty of students who still need that extra help, and even though from this point forward her role is voluntary she does not have any interest in giving up on the kids.
Grejtak, who plans to move north soon, said she is hoping to get involved in education at some level where she is going to be living, adding she has been in contact with the Reading Corps program in that area.
“Working with kids really helps to keep you young,” Grejtak said. “This has been a fun job, but I really feel now is the time for me to move on in my life.”
Grejtak said she began working in the district in January 1996 and during those years she has served as an assistant offering the equivalent of a high school study hall.
At times there are students in her area who are not quite getting a concept and are looking for a little bit of extra help, and at other times there are whole classes of students who are working on special projects and need some guidance.
Whether she was working one-on-one with a student or with a group, Grejtak said she treated everyone the same and was always willing to be more than just someone who was helping them with their school work.
Most of the students, she said, call her “Mrs. G.,” and come to talk with her about other issues they are dealing with in life.
In those cases, Grejtak said she is willing to offer a listening ear, which, she added, is what they need.
“I remember my first day Don Yrjo told me to bring a book, because I might get bored,” she said. “I brought a book the first day but have not brought one since.”
Page 2 of 3 - Grejtak, a 1964 graduate of Redwood Falls did not intend to be in education.
Grejtak was educated as a nurse and worked for a number of years in nursing, including serving at a veterans hospital, adding she moved around the U.S.
Grejtak got her education at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, adding an uncle took her on a trip to Alaska which led her to make the return trip for college.
Grejtak said the role she filled initially with the school district was not intended to last as long as it did, but over time it just got to be more and more permanent.
At the end of each year, Grejtak said the kids tell her she has to come back, but she said now is the time to move on in her life.
“I hope to get involved in school,” said Grejtak, adding if that doesn’t happen right away she can fill in her time going fishing and hunting.
“There has always been something new,” Grejtak said, adding she believes she probably learned more from the kids than they ever learned from her.
Tiffany, who is originally from the St. Louis area, said she always did well in math in school and majored in math in college.
“Math is beautiful,” said Tiffany, adding that is what she tells each student who comes for help.
While she knows not every student is going to hold the same philosophy she has when it comes to math, it is her hope they can appreciate it more when they leave. Tiffany said she has always wondered if she loved math because of the teachers she had or loved her math teachers so much because of her interest in math. Either way, she has consistently been one students can come to for that extra math help.
Tiffany actually started working in the local district in the 1970s, but at first it was not all that often. Over time that has changed, so more recently she has been in the school every day.
“When I was substitute teaching, I saw there were students who were in need of extra help, and I asked if I could help them,” she said, adding that volunteer work led to her position as a math specialist in the school.
Tiffany primarily worked with high school students, but every once in a while a student from the middle school stops in for help.
Tiffany said the issue many students face is getting to a particular type of math they just don’t understand, and once they have determined they are never going to get it everything after that just piles on top.
Page 3 of 3 - Tiffany said she is not really retiring from her role, because she is still planning to be at the school.
“I’m not retiring, just my paycheck is,” she said with a smile. “There are a lot of students who are in need of help, and I want to be able to keep offering that.”
Tiffany said she is not going to be at the school all day every day, adding that is going to allow her to work on some of the many projects she has to finish at home.
Tiffany said they call her role offering math interventions, and she believes what that means is not only giving them that extra help to understand math but also “butting in” with the students to try and find out what is behind their lack of interest in math or why they have fallen behind in class.
“When you work with kids you want them to do well,” she said. “That means you can’t give up on them. I feel a sense of satisfaction working with students. Why would I want to stop that?”