As a four-year-old boy, Randy Keillor has vivid memories of wanting to be a teacher.
“Some of the older kids would play school with us,” he said.
In the basement make-believe classroom, Keillor and the other young children were the students with one of the older children playing the teacher.
“I really wanted to be the teacher,” said Keillor, who will be 62 this month.
As he grew up, the former Anoka High School student grew up and became a St. Francis School District 15 English teacher.
And for 34 years, Keillor worked with students before becoming the district’s Q Comp coordinator and working with the district’s Teacher Academy.
In all, Keillor has worked to educate students and provide further education for the district teachers for 40 years.
But with the close of the school year, Keillor has moved into a new chapter – retirement.
Coming to St. Francis
When Keillor finished college at the University of Minnesota in 1972, there were not a lot of teaching job available.
A lot of school districts were closing schools because there was a drop in student enrollment, Keillor said.
After having job interviews with several school districts, Keillor took the job in District 15 when it was offered.
“But I stayed because I liked it here,” Keillor said.
During his time as an English teacher and debate coach, he was able to help build a cohesive English department and he was able to coach the younger of his two sons on the debate team.
One of his favorite memories is taking the debate team, including his son, to the 1997 state tournament, Keillor said.
The team won, he said.
His second favorite memory was watching his debate team win the 1983 national tournament.
“I have been lucky to teach in St. Francis. I was really lucky to land in a place right off the bat and to have chance to build a career,” Keillor said.
This district has changed so much during his 40 years, Keillor said.
In 1972, the biggest problem teachers faced was students using feed corn like spit balls, he said.
Over time the district’s rural nature has changed.
“I have not see corn around the school for a long time,” Keillor said.
While the district is not in suburban area, it is likely students no longer have parents making their living as farmers anymore, he said.
Nor do teachers hear students claiming they were late for school because the cows had to go out, Keillor said.
The community also had a lot pride in the schools and the job they were doing, he said.
Working for teachers
Until the day he retired from teaching in 2006, Keillor was active with the teachers’ union.
He did a lot of things for the union, including the newsletter and was on the negotiation team for about six years, Keillor said.
Keillor left the negotiating table in the 1980s, but returned as the chief negotiator in 1993.
“I enjoyed negotiating the contracts,” Keillor said.
Among the things that Keillor was able to negotiate was the creation of the Teachers Academy, a college-level continuing education for the district teachers.
The state requires the district use 2 percent of its revenue for staff development and union negotiated, as part of its contract, that the district use those funds to start the academy in 2001 as well as a teacher mentoring program, Keillor said.
Working with the union Vice President Mary Wherry, Keillor helped write the staff development plan in 2000 that would eventually be used as the framework for the academy.
In 2005, the district become a Q Comp school district and Keillor coordinated the program full-time until 2007.
He resigned from teaching because his employment was tied to the Q Comp program and he wanted it to be successful and he wanted to open his teaching position up to a younger teacher, Keillor said.
Being the Q Comp coordinator was challenging, he said.
The district had to design a system that included career ladder/advancement options, job-embedded professional development, teacher evaluation, performance pay and an alternative salary schedule.
It was something new to the district as well as to the state, Keillor said.
In 2008, Keillor semi-retired, but he continued to coordinate Q Comp in a part-time capacity.
“It is fun to think of all the things that we have accomplished,” Keillor said.
While he will miss it, it’s time to retire completely, he said.
Everything is in place with Q Comp and the Teachers Academy, Keillor said.
There are teachers who are willing to take on the challenge of the programs so it’s the perfect time, Keillor said.
And there are so many things Keillor has planned for his retirement.
“My wife and I like to landscape,” and they have plans to landscape the property they have on the Rum River in Cambridge, he said.
They will also plan on traveling more and spending time with their two children.
A third grandchild is expected in July, Keillor said.
Their youngest son has a Fulbright Scholarship. He is spending the next year in Mexico and the couple plans to visit him and his family.
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]