WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     WWg — Growing up in St. Paul, Duane Hannan did not have an ah ha moment that steered him into the teaching profession.

    He said while he was in the Army, stationed in Germany, he took some courses in German and did well at them. So when he started college he decided to pursue a German education major. At some point he realized there was not much of a market for German teachers so he added English to his major.

    Another thing he discovered was that he liked going to school. School is a good place, “you learn things there,” he mused.

    Growing up he enjoyed reading — “books took me to different places, I always wanted to go places, and  the army helped me do that,” he said.

    Hannan’s family was very outdoors oriented, they camped and fished since he was very young. As a high school student Hannan said St. Paul had several learning centers around the city — auto mechanics, biology and others that you could go to for a semester. At one of the centers is where he learned about canoeing, which he has pursued for many years taking trips to the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, with his friends and family.

    Hannan graduated from Monroe High School in 1975, then spent three years in the army with a tour in Germany. After leaving the army he attended the University of Minnesota graduating in 1984 with a bachelor of science degree in English Education. After graduation he accepted a short term position at Mound from January to May of 1985.

    While he was there he knew that he would be laid off. At that time he and his, wife Torild Jacobsen, had a three year old daughter Mia, and another  child on the way, he decided to join the army reserve. He went to North Carolina to take training in Psychological Operations,  dealing with prisoners of war.

    In  August, while Hannan was training, Westbrook Principal Burt Wiecks called him to come for an interview. He recalled it was very hot and they came down in their old car without air conditioning. Wiecks and Steve Kjorness interviewed him and took them out for supper at the Dovray Manor, and a tour of the school building. After  accepting the job Wiecks found a room for him at Goldie Passmore’s house.  Since his wife was eight months pregnant she did not move down until after the baby was born.

        When Hannan started teaching in Westbrook, he had classes in English, German, speech, and English Social projects. At that time computers were just coming on the scene in schools, so he began teaching a computer  programming class using Apple II e’s in  1986. Hannan and math teacher Jim  Soll set up the first network in the computer lab along  with a connection to the media center.

    Over the years Hannan has become  the technology person for the school. He has built networks in the high school and in the tech campus. He has developed both hard wire and wireless networks in both campuses. His wife now handles most of the day to day computer lab duties, while Hannan works mainly with administration and development of the networks, along with recommendations for ordering new technology. He also has set up several portable computer labs.

    When asked about how teaching English and literature has changed since he started teaching, Hannan says “It really isn’t  much different today.  Early on Jim Soll and I saw the value of word processing — it has made a difference in how students work. Instead of hand writing drafts, now they can do it with word processing, so it is much easier to make changes when they need to.”

    Hannan said “It was a huge change when we went from English 7 though 12, to 7  through 10. It was nice that our school allowed us to offer more elective courses such as journalism, drama, and video production,” he says. Students like the sense of choice and can learn more about fields related to communications.

    One thing Hannan enjoys about teaching — “there are times when kids understand — the light goes on and they can see how it affects their life and the community.”

    Hannan says, “Today kids have a lot more to distract them than before there were cell phones, tablets, M-TV and social media. But they have always been distracted by sports, girls, boys, and any number of things, technology has made a big difference in their lives, he said. Growing up is hard for them to learn — life lessons are the hardest parts. Academically they are well inclined, but there is always some ebb and flow of life skills.

    The school addresses some  of this in Life 101 — financial, personal, community responsibility are part of that curriculum, the school is trying  to emphasize.

    In those areas the teachers and staff do a pretty good job of understanding the day to day needs of the kids. Bill Richards had a great understanding of what kids need — Loy Woelber and Bill and the majority of our staff are very good at addressing the needs of our  students.

    Hannan says he has been eligible for retirement under the rule of ‘90’ for a couple of years. On  retirement, he says, “I just want to do something different — I am just a bit tired of grading papers. This has  been my life, and I want to see what else is out there, I have thought about helping out with the tech department and what else the school  might need me to fill in if needed.”  

    Hannan says, “I have worked with and  been  mentored by terrific people. Bill Richards, Loy Woelber, Burt Wiecks, Steve Kjorness, and  Doc Quincey — I could not have had better people to work for, they have been great bosses. They have always been supportive of me all the time — the teachers I have worked with have been amazing!”

    “The community gave my kids, and us, a wonderful place for them to grow up in, I just could not ask for a better place to have been.”

    Hannan feels the school board has been such a supportive group of people — very seldom was there issues in the school that were not settled amicably, they are just good dedicated people.

    Hannan listed some of his mentors that helped him in his teaching  career — Inez Timmerman, Jim Soll, Gary DeBates, Vera Rachuy, John Amundson and Kathy Wiecks. “They were just good teachers, they were really helpful in my early years.”

    He has gone to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for many years, usually following the end of the school year.  He sometimes has gone with his wife and daughters, or with his dad and brother, and even a couple of trips with Boy Scout groups. At one time he had gone 25 years straight.

    Hannan says he is so grateful for his career here. Students, fellow teachers, administration, and support staff have been wonderful and supportive to me.

    Reflecting on retirement, Hannan enjoys traveling and visiting his kids. Mia who is with the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service in South Dakota, and Andrea who is with the Forestry Service in Utah.

    He says, my life has been in school — I like to read, and I might try some new things, perhaps doing some  writing.

    Whatever he decides to do, we wish him the best of whatever that may be. Have a happy retirement Duane.