Sarah Mertens knows when students walk into her classroom they are not all coming in with the same level of interest in what she teaches that she has. In fact, she recognizes some think it is boring and does not relate to them. So, her goal as a social studies teacher is to find ways to pique their interest and to help them see how events from the past have had an impact on what is going on around them today.

Mertens is teaching world history, geography, psychology and sociology at Redwood Valley High School this school year, but this is not her first year of teaching.

Mertens is originally from Franklin and is a 2010 graduate of Cedar Mountain High School.

Having earned her social studies teaching degree from Southwest Minnesota State University, Mertens spent the past five years teaching social studies in the BOLD School District and said she enjoyed that experience as she was able to teach similar classes there. Mertens added she was also able to develop a criminology elective class that was popular with students, and she hopes in the future to be able to offer something like that at Redwood Valley.

Becoming a teacher is something Mertens knew she wanted to do from an early age, as she recalls having desks she and her sister could use to play school.

“I like to help people and have always been interested in working with kids,” said Mertens, adding as a high-school student during student government day when the students took over the jobs in the school she enjoyed being the teacher.

For Mertens, becoming a social studies teacher made sense, simply because she has a deep appreciation for history and now has the opportunity to share that interest with students. Whether it is reading about the Egyptian culture or studying the Dark Ages and Medieval times, Mertens said learning about what was happening in the past and how people lived then is interesting to her.

Teaching at the high-school level was also something that made the most sense for Mertens.

“I wanted to be able to have critical thinking conversations with students,” she said.

So, whether it is building catapults or playing games that help her students better understand the impact of the plague, Mertens strives to find opportunities and fun activities to help students connect with the past. 

Growing up, Mertens said she would often come to Redwood Falls, as she participated in Ramona Larson’s dance program. Mertens and her family, which includes her husband, Darik, who is a Redwood Valley graduate and works for Everstrong Construction, and their children Wyatt and Oakley, live near Belview, and Mertens said for the past years teaching in BOLD she would travel through Redwood Falls to get to her job.

So, she felt it made sense to try and shorten her commute, as that would also give her more time to be with her family. So, teaching in Redwood Falls made sense, and Mertens said things have been going well in her new role.

“The staff is great,” she said, adding she enjoys the students, too.

When she is not in the classroom, Mertens said she likes spending time with her family, adding her kids take up most of that free time, but she also likes to reading history books, watching cooking shows and remodeling their home.