When Dave Madson walks out the door of Redwood Valley schools at the end of the 2017-18 school year, it will be the end of a 44-year career as a teacher and six decades of involvement in education.
“I have been involved in school as a student or a teacher for 61 years,” said Madson, adding it is not easy to just give that up and walk away.
Madson, the son of a pastor, spent parts of his youth in various locations and ended up graduating from Cottonwood High School.
He then went on to study at the next level in Mankato – starting out his education at Bethany College and completing his health education degree at Mankato State University. Madson admitted when he first went to college he had not made a decision about which career path he planned to follow.
Madson said it was a college professor whose influence convinced him to become an educator. Madson said as a college freshman he met a professor from Indiana.
“He was the most fired up teacher I ever had,” said Madson, adding it was that charismatic teacher who got Madson thinking about a career in teaching.
Initially, Madson had considered math education, but ultimately, that same teacher’s influence as a professor focusing on health helped to make Madson’s decision to also study health education.
It was in 1974 when Madson was offered a job in Redwood Falls, adding at the time he was still in school.
“They hired me before I graduated,” said Madson. “I still had two classes left.”
Those classes were not being offered until the following fall, so Madson had to convince his professors to allow him to take those final classes as independent study courses to finish his degree.
“I was 21 years old when I came to Redwood Falls,” Madson said. “At that time I planned to stay here for two years.”
Along the way he started dating someone, and by the end of his third year of teaching in Redwood Falls he and Jan were married. Then the Madson family began to grow, and they determined Redwood Falls was a pretty good community to raise their children.
So, they stayed, and Madson kept teaching health and coaching various sports from varsity, junior high and B-squad basketball and varsity golf to middle-school football and middle-school track.
Madson starting teaching health for students in Grades 7-10, and when the new school opened he focused on health education at the middle-school level teaching that subject to students in Grades 5-8.
For the past couple of years Madson has moved back to teaching students at the high-school level, as he taught human anatomy in addition to middle-school health.
During his time at Redwood Valley Middle School, Madson also taught reading at the fifth- and eighth-grade level.
Having the opportunity every few years to change up what he taught and/or coached helped to keep things fresh for Madson, which he appreciated as an educator.
“For me the job never got stale, because there was always something a little different,” he said.
As a health teacher, Madson said he constantly had to keep up with changing trends and messages in order to ensure the students who walked into his classroom had the best information available to them.
Madson said as his time in the Redwood Area School District comes to an end he has been clearing out file cabinets of information, adding as he looks at 40-plus years of information he has gathered, there have certainly been changes.
However, the overall message of the importance of personal health and nutrition has been the same.
What has been a big change is the way students are getting information. Through advances in technology, students have access to a lot more information, and so Madson said part of his role now is helping students determine the best place to get good information.
As a teacher, Madson said he is helping students learn to read information critically to find out what is authentic and what not to trust.
Different issues have come down the pike, said Madson, adding whether it was AIDS or Zika, he felt a responsibility to learn what he could to make sure the information students were learning was accurate.
Madson said as his career comes to an end he hopes those who came into his classroom will remember him as someone who cared about them, someone who helped them seriously consider the importance of their personal health and someone who maybe even piqued their interest in a health or medical career.
Madson said he hopes over the years students saw him as a firm, but fair teacher, who helped to make learning fun and who offered a safe learning environment where they could grow.
Although some of the message has changed over the years, Madson said the one thing he thinks has never really changed from his perspective is the student.
“Kids are really the same today as they were when I started teaching 44 years ago,” said Madson. “They have the same concerns and cares. What has changed is what is going on around them. I would say students over the years have had more things in common with each other than differences.”
As one who has taught the children, and even a few grandchildren, of former students, Madson said he sees how those similarities come through, adding he feels privileged to know he has had the opportunity to be an influence on families in the second, and even third, generation.
When he talked about his decision to retire at the end of this year, Madson said that very day had been a pretty good one, as the classes really seemed to be ready to learn.
“I have always enjoyed those days when students came in wanting to learn and focused on what they were doing,” he said. “I am going to miss those days.”
Madson said he is also going to miss the camaraderie of his teaching and coaching colleagues as his career comes to an end.
No, Madson admitted, it was not an easy decision to retire, although he believes now is the time. Retirement will give him the chance to do other things in life, including spending more time with his wife, who also recently retired, his children and grandchildren.
Madson said he looks forward to knowing he will be able to drive up to the metro area in the middle of the week and watch his grandkids at one of their events. He also plans to do more traveling with Jan and expects he will get more involved at church.
Growing up, Madson did not stay in one place for a long time because of his dad’s role as a pastor, and so his time in Redwood Falls is the longest he has ever been in one place in his life.
“This is home,” he said, adding his children and grandchildren love visiting the community.
Madson said he has enjoyed the chance to be involved in the lives of so many people, adding he is excited to see students returning to the community and even some of them working as teachers in the local school district.
While Madson may not be in the classroom anymore, one can be sure he is going to stay connected to what has been such an important part of his life for such a long time.