When the bell tolls on the school year May 31, it will ring in a new chapter for Bev Jondahl.
After 39 years of service -- 32 of them at Brainerd High School -- the popular art instructor is calling it a career. Her retirement begins officially June 1.
"I decided that after all these years, I wanted to go do my own art," she said in an interview this week. "I could have continued -- I love the kids -- but I decided it was time. I want to be on a nonscheduled day, with no bells ringing."
A jewelry maker and painter, Jondahl plans to putter away her days at her Baxter home, taking an occasional foreign trip and volunteering her time on behalf of her favorite civic causes.
"I will paint when I want to, do metals when I want to and maybe volunteer when I want to. I have no plans, other than what comes along that sounds really good." -- Bev Jondahl, retiring Brainerd High School art teacher
"I will paint when I want to, do metals when I want to and maybe volunteer when I want to," she said with a laugh. "I have no plans, other than what comes along that sounds really good."
A native of Bemidji, Jondahl vowed as a young woman never to become a teacher, she said, until a substitute teaching assignment shortly after graduation from college changed her mind.
"I wasn't going to become a teacher, that was goal No. 1," she said, adding she didn't want to follow in the footsteps of her grandmothers and other family members who were teachers.
"I always wanted to be an artist but I didn't know how to go about it," Jondahl said, "but after teaching for six weeks (at Bemidji High School) I decided it was an all right career. I've never regretted it."
She took her first full-time teaching assignment in the Blackduck school system in 1962, as an art and English instructor. She holds a bachelor's degree in education -- as well as a master's -- from Bemidji State University.
She moved on to the Wheaton School District in 1964, where she stayed for five years before landing a position in the Brainerd School District. In the early years she taught sophomore English, as well as art.
"I got blown out (of Wheaton) by the blizzards and couldn't stand living on the prairie anymore," she recalled. "I decided that if I couldn't find another job in Minnesota I would move to California. But I signed a contract in Brainerd a week before school started."
Over the years, she has instructed hundreds of Brainerd students in the fine art of jewelry making -- her preference -- as well as the visual and graphic arts.
She also holds a "vocational certification" in metal arts and helped establish jewelry making as a vocational track for her students.
Jondahl also is credited with starting the annual Fine Arts Banquet -- now in its 23rd year -- to pay tribute to students who excel in art, speech, drama, music and other arts-related disciplines.
"People are going to be amazed next year at how much they miss Bev," said Bonnie Cumberland, a longtime Jondahl colleague and close friend. "She has a wealth of experience and is a good and kind person, and these are traits that help her when she talks to administrators and parents about things that need to be emphasized.
"Bev is a quiet leader who leads with grace and dignity," said Cumberland, a former Brainerd mayor.
Cumberland's sentiments are trumpeted by BHS principal Steve Razidlo, who called Jondahl a "wonderful leader and a wonderful giver of herself."
"She's going to be sorely missed because of her expertise and her great love and concern for kids," the principal said. "She has helped students who might not have found a niche in high school, helped them find a home in the art department. She's proved that over and over again.
"Bev will be here a lot checking up on us," he added, "so we will leave her a set of keys for the metal room."
Jondahl said she's witnessed many changes in education over the years, particularly in the amount of paperwork required by state and federal laws and in parents' involvement in school decisions.
"We don't just teach anymore," she said. "Parents, for example, used to stay away from school and whatever the teacher said went. Now they are much more involved.
"And the kids have changed some, too. They are more worldly, have more money to spend and they share a lot more of their personal life with their teachers," Jondahl said. "On the other hand, we still have kids who are timid and scared and confident and bullies and talkers and nothing has changed.
"So I plan to stay active with kids somewhere along the line," she said.
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