Donalee Josephson went to college to be a home economics teacher.

However, decades would pass by before she had the opportunity to offer her knowledge in that area.

For Josephson, her role as an educator in the Redwood Area School District came in a roundabout kind of way.

Announcing her plan to retire at the end of the current school year, Josephson looked back at her unique career path.

“I came to work in the school district in 1999 as the volunteer coordinator,” said Josephson, adding she also served as a substitute teacher.

Josephson started as a teacher in 2001, but it was not what is now known as family and consumer science. Rather, she was involved in teaching keyboarding and technology to middle-school students.

After graduating from North Dakota State University with her degree in home economics, Josephson started looking for a job.

“At that time there was a glut of Home Ec teachers and no job openings,” said Josephson.

Having moved with her husband, Kirby, to Valley City, Josephson saw the fact that getting a teaching job would not be possible. So she went a different route and started working at Valley City State University – climbing up the ladder to ultimately serve as an administrative assistant to the university’s president.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” said Josephson, adding by the time her family moved to Redwood Falls a significant time gap had passed by since she had earned her degree.

Josephson said her mother was a teacher, adding she taught in country schools and as a teacher made a huge difference in the lives of her students. Education was important to Josephson’s parents, adding they wanted their children to go to college.

Josephson said it was Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent, who approached her about an opening they had in the school teaching keyboarding and technology at RVMS, and with her background at the university level, as well as additional business education Josephson received, teaching the class seemed like a natural fit. 

“My degree was 19 years old when I started teaching,” said Josephson, adding she appreciated the opportunity to make the dream she had nearly two decades earlier finally come true.

As time went on, Josephson’s role changed, and four years ago a retirement led to another discussion with Ellingworth. That provided that opportunity to teach in her initial degree field.

It was 31 years after earning that degree when Josephson started teaching a foods class, as well as a course on relationships and child development.

“I loved it,” said Josephson, adding the chance to teach students at the high-school level for a few years meant reconnecting with students she had taught in the middle school. “It was fun to see how much they had grown and matured.”

As a teacher, Josephson’s role has also included assisting with the middle-school career exploration and job shadowing program, adding she appreciated the vision school leadership, including Ellingworth, had to come up with a program that is helping prepare students for life beyond their time in the local school district.

Whether it is learning the basics of technology, the foundational concepts of personal care or preparing for the next stage of life, Josephson said she feels the classes she has been teaching are all extremely critical in the potential success a student can have down the road.

“These are all usable skills,” said Josephson.

Looking to the future, Josephson said she is glad to know the family and consumer science program is going to increase, as a full-time teacher has been hired, and she knows the technology and career exploration programs will also be in very good hands.

Along the way, Josephson took time off to raise a family, and in retirement she plans to spend a lot more time with family, as well as reading the long list of books that is waiting for her, traveling and getting more involved in activities she enjoys.

“I have lots of hobbies,” Josephson said with a smile.

Josephson said she also plans to do more volunteer work and hopes to get back to playing the piano more often. Josephson said she will also be using her business skills to help Kirby with the cattle business he operates.

Creating connections with her students and getting hugs from them, is something Josephson said she is going to miss.

“I love being around the kids,” she said. “That was the fun part of what I did.”

Josephson has enjoyed the opportunity she was given to be around students in a school setting, but one can say the “to do” list she has already created for herself could mean she will be just as busy, if not more, even though she has retired.