By Linda Andersen
“Mrs. Lindberg also helped shape my future by teaching me the basics of writing articles” – Amy Unrau.
“When I was in high school, Mrs. Lindberg got me interested in Photoshop, and that led to my decision to attend Alexandria Tech. and pursue a graphic design career” – Dustin Hart.
Who is this Mrs. Lindberg, whom former students remember when they are being interviewed by the “Enterprise?” She is now retired from teaching, but keeping busy with many activities – making jewelry, traveling, working for the DFL in Kittson County, and more. Contacted by email, Lindberg was in St. Paul on “nanny duty” with her grandson. Upon returning to Kittson County, she responded with information about a background full of varied experiences, her special teaching memories, and advice to teachers.
Mrs. Lindberg (“Charlie”) grew up in the Minneapolis suburb of Robbinsdale and graduated in a class of 1,000 from Robbinsdale High in 1965.
She tells about the start of her college career – “I went to Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter. I started as an English major, switched to German, and graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1968. I went to the U of M intending to get a PHD in philosophy and teach in a college, but discovered during my second year that there was one job opening in the U.S. Hmmmmm…”
“I had taken a few grad classes in history and truly enjoyed them. So I finished up a history undergraduate degree from Gustavus…Then I spent a summer driving to Gustavus in the back seat of a non-air conditioned VW with my husband, Bill, and a friend of his to get the education credits I needed to be a high school history teacher.”
She tells of her entry into the working world: “When I started looking for jobs in 1970, it was the time when women’s sports were just beginning and I faced the fact that I could have had any number of positions if I could coach volleyball or basketball, neither of which was in my repertoire. Newspaper or annual advisor were possible, but schools wanted only coaches.”
“I finally landed a job as the secretary in the Supervised Study program at Eisenhower High School in Hopkins, thinking that this might give me an opportunity to more easily move into a teaching position in the future. This position, instead, brought me into contact with superb teachers who taught the whole student and were involved with every aspect of their lives.”
Lindberg and her husband, Bill, moved to Kennedy in 1971. With no opportunity to teach history in Kennedy, she began taking night classes at Moorhead State and secured a position as the LD (learning disabled) teacher of grades 7 – 12. She writes of this experience: “Not all of the students assigned to me had official learning disabilities like dyslexia – some did not do well in class because they spoke Spanish at home and so didn’t know English well enough to handle the vocabulary in their classes, others were not capable of taking regular classes because they had mental or physical handicaps, and in a couple of cases the students moved from other states and had not attended school regularly or at all.”
“I tried to work with the regular classroom teachers so I could offer extra help and modifications to allow the students to stay in the regular class with their peers, but at the time most high school teachers just wanted these ‘problem’ students out of their classes. So, for the most part, I taught the students in my own ‘classroom,’ first the Kennedy shop office with one wall piled high with old filing cabinets and stockpiled floor tiles, and then in the back of the cafeteria with a temporary partition separating us from lunchroom noise.”
“I had some success, I think, in keeping these students in school and giving them the basics of the curriculum. My hardest job was to try to keep them from thinking that they were dumb and less important than the other students, which is still an issue for many students.”
Beginning in 1977, Lindberg took a few years off to be home with her young sons, Andrew and John.
In 1985, the Hallock School hired her as librarian, requiring she earn additional licensure. By attending weekend and summer courses in various locations, she eventually earned not only the proper licensure, but also, in 1996, a Media Specialist Master’s degree.
Mrs. Lindberg goes on to tell of some favorite memories of teaching and more about her varied experiences in the education field: “My favorite part of teaching World History was the students and adapting the curriculum to help them expand their knowledge and skills. I called it ‘putting tools in their toolboxes’ and was very fond of telling them, rightly, that they could not rely on what they learned in the formal setting of school but would need to know how to become lifelong learners.”
“Special times when teaching world history to juniors:
a. I was teaching about African history when the news broke that Nelson Mandela was being released from prison. We had just studied his life and apartheid.
b. I always tried to dispel stereotypes and negative opinions students had about other cultures. When teaching the history of India, students called the native people ‘ragheads’ and thought they were stupid for not eating the sacred cows. Using the film, Gandhi, and a document explaining how the byproducts of the cows were much more valuable to the people of India than their meat. I think many students opened their eyes to different ways of looking at other cultures.
c. When we studied the Middle Ages, I assigned each student to research one real person or a generic role of that time period (Charlemagne or a serf or a lady married to a lord) and prepare a speech talking about their daily life. For extra credit the student could add a costume, props, and backdrop – which most did. The speeches were videotaped in the gym on the stage.
d. As an attempt to introduce current events and different learning modalities into the curriculum, at the beginning of each class hour I put a drawing on the board to illustrate a current event. Perhaps my extremely poor drawing skills helped increase student interest as they tried to decipher what precisely the drawing was. Laughing at the teacher is always fun for students.
Toward the end of my career, I developed advanced technology-based classes to offer to students. At the time, we had ‘keyboarding’ classes in grade 7 or 8 and nothing beyond that. While I worked with teachers to use word-processing, creation and use of spreadsheets, databases, and slideshows in their classes, I saw so many more opportunities that could be provided for students.
I began with Media Arts, which later was divided into multiple classes. My students did the annual layout with the help of volunteer annual staff members to take pictures, created personalized Christmas cards for nursing home residents, and documented all sorts of special events in the school.
The video production class recorded graduation, games, concerts, plays, and speeches and other class events for teachers while also making their own videos. We even did a few projects for the community including a video for C&M Ford and one for the home health department.
In web design, we created the school web site, maintained it, and updated it daily. The newsletter class wrote stories and created the Kittson Central newsletter which was sent out monthly to document school activities and provide information to every patron in the school district. Later the newsletter also appeared in full color on the web site.”
Asked what advice she would give to teachers, Mrs. Lindberg responded with the following: “The classroom and the world keep moving, but I would just make a few suggestions for high school teachers in particular:
a. Teach the whole child. Help them see their learning strengths and weaknesses and give them opportunities to work on their weaknesses in a safe environment. Make sure they understand that failing means they have new skills and habits of mind they need to work on and are not ‘failures.’ Students are so quick to define themselves as ‘stupid’ when all they need is more practice. It takes at least 40 repetitions in different contexts to put something into long term memory and more to develop or replace a habit.
b. Give students choices. They do not all learn in the same way or at the same speed. This is the ultimate challenge in teaching, to take each student where they are and move them forward while still maintaining a classroom setting.
c. Keep up on new methods and technology, but only with the intention to give all students the same opportunities. Do not jump on the latest bandwagon (as legislators do) and think through the value of each idea for your students before implementing them.
d. Collaborate as much as possible with your fellow teachers. Students benefit from seeing information in multiple contexts. Also, you will all be stronger and will bring more depth to your subject matter.
e. Celebrate your own development and the growth in your students. Try not to listen to the critics badmouthing teachers. I fear greatly for the future of education, especially high school. With the wholesale denigration of teachers and the paltry paycheck, few people have chosen and are choosing this career path and those who do are driven out by the demands placed on them, the lack of support in their districts, and the ever-shifting priorities set by those who have never felt the responsibility of guiding students to reach their potential.”
Mrs. Lindberg is one of those fortunate (and possibly rare) people who truly found her niche in life. “I loved my job and would have done it with no pay at all,” she says.