Helen Manthei walked out of the Redwood Valley Middle School sixth-grade pod this past Wednesday afternoon for the last time as a full-time teacher.

As of Oct. 4, Manthei is retired.

“I’m ready,” said Manthei, adding it is time for a young generation of educators to be given the chance to work with students.

Manthei began her teaching career in the Danube School District in 1974 as a third- and fourth-grade teacher.

“Not many people know that I also coached B-squad basketball, even though I really didn’t know anything about it,” Manthei said with a smile.

After serving there until 1978, Manthei experienced the realities of cuts in education and moved to Ellendale where she spent 11 years teaching everything from second through sixth grade. It was in 1989 when Manthei made a return journey to the area and began working in the Redwood Area School District.

“In the summer of 1989 I visited the school and told them I was available to do whatever they wanted,” said Manthei.

So, she started as a study hall monitor and worked with the school’s gifted and talented program. That, she said, was at the old Lincoln school. The following year, as the number of students in the district began to grow, a decision was made to add a fifth section at the third-grade level, and Manthei was offered that job teaching at Reede Gray Elementary School. 

Since then, Manthei has served in various capacities from second grade all the way up to seventh grade.

“I never really minded the changes,” said Manthei, adding she learned a lot about herself and about the kids along the way.

Having been in the younger and older grades at different times in her career, Manthei said she was given the rare privilege of seeing some of the same students – feeling blessed to interact with them at different stages of their lives.

“That was a lot of fun for me,” she said.

Originally from Red Wing, Manthei earned her teaching degree from St. Cloud State.

“My sister was a teacher, and so I guess I just followed in her footsteps,” said Manthei. “In those days there were not many opportunities for women. It was either be a teacher or a secretary.”

Recognizing the fact that she enjoyed kids led to her final decision to become an educator, and that love for students kept her in teaching for 43 years. Manthei said she also enjoyed the camaraderie she experienced as an educator working with some there great teachers along the way.

“I loved to work with my colleagues here over the years,” said Manthei, adding those friendships she has developed and that interaction in the education setting is something she is going to miss.

While Manthei is officially retired, she has no intention of completely shutting the door on education, as she plans to serve as a substitute teacher. The good news, she added, is in that role she can pick and choose when and where she works.

Of course, Manthei added, she plans to stay home this fall and help her husband with the farming. Manthei said she has appreciated the chance she has had to work with so many kids over the years.

“I want to thank all of the parents for letting me mold their kids’s lives,” said Manthei, adding she doesn’t think the parents receive enough thanks for their willingness to send their children to school.

Manthei added she knows she has been involved in the lives of many students and looks forward to seeing them in the future. However, she said, even though they might recognize her she might not know who every student is.

“Just let me know who you are,” she said.

Although she has reached retirement age, Manthei said she doesn’t feel old and still has plans to do a lot of traveling and work in her garden.