“When I went to college I was on the same track as the pre-med students,” said Ruth Zeise, saying many people don’t realize how much chemistry and biology goes into what used to be called "home ec."
When Ruth Zeise started working in the Redwood Falls school district in Sept-ember 1977 she had no plan to stay her entire career. “I thought I would stay a couple of years and then move on,” she said. Instead, Zeise continued to educate students in her hands-on classes for dec-ades, and as of this week has officially stepped down from her role. Having grown up in Faribault, Zeise said she knew early in her life she wanted to be a teacher. She also recognized the value in providing those practical life skills taught in what was known as home economics when she graduated from college. The program has changed over the years, said Zeise, adding the name was changed to personal family life science and now is known as family and consumer science. After earning her home economics education degree from St. Olaf College, Zeise came to Redwood Falls. “To me teaching was fun,” she said, adding working with kids was something that had always been something she wanted to do. Zeise believes the practical, hands-on kind of courses she offers, which can help students learn everything from sewing on a button to preparing a meal, are a very important part of creating well-rounded students. Unfortunately, she added, things in education are changing, and those classes are not a priority for some like they were in the past. “When you look at education as a whole you see we are losing the hands-on classes,” she said. The interest still exists, she said, adding this past school year she had 52 students who were enrolled in her culinary arts program. Budget cuts, she said, have meant the program is being reduced. “We need kids to know how to take care of themselves,” she said.
Zeise said there are some who think kids are learning those types of lessons at home, but her experience is many of the students who enter her classroom do not know even the basics. As the program now includes consumer science, Zeise said that means she is teaching classes in everything from balancing a checkbook to the basics of table setting. “When I went to college I was on the same track as the pre-med students,” said Zeise, adding many people don’t realize how much chemistry and biology goes into what she is teaching. The child development classes Zeise offered are also an important element of what she teaches, not only for future parents but also for those who may be considering a career in daycare. That, she added, had become a big part of the class she offered. Zeise said when she leaves the school for the final time, she knows it is the kids she is going to miss. “I love the kids,” she said, adding she has kept photos of her classes over time and looks at them fondly. Technology has been one of the most significant changes in what and how Zeise taught, she said, adding there is a lot more information available for students and that information is easily accessed. Zeise said as she looks to her time in retirement she has plans to do some traveling and to put some of the lessons she taught, such as quilting, into practice. She also wants to spend more time with family. Zeise said she is likely going to do some substitute teaching, adding she also knows there are plenty of ways she can serve the community as a volunteer. Zeise said she has had a great career in education, adding she is hopeful the program can continue. “It is so necessary,” she said, adding seeing it cut is hard for her. Yet, she is glad to have had the chance to impact the lives of so many students.