After 40 years in teaching, with 31 years at Pequot Lakes, fourth-grade teacher Darla Terry is retiring.
Darla said that teaching seemed to run in her family. Her father was a teacher, principal and superintendent, and her two older sisters were teachers. At the time she was choosing a career she didn’t really look at many other options, but at that time, she said, there weren’t many professions for women.
Regardless, Darla’s happy with her career choice.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids,” she said.
She attended Purdue University, and began her teaching career in Indiana in 1973. While she was in college, her sister dated a man whose father spent the summers on Pelican Lake. Darla and her sister decided to work at resorts during their summers in college, first at Madden's and then at Breezy Point Resort.
It was at Breezy Point, where she was a waitress, that Darla met her husband, Frank, who was a cook at the time.
Darla’s first nine years of teaching were in Indiana, before the Terrys came to live in Breezy Point, not far from the resort where they met. Darla and Frank have one son, Mason.
Aside from teaching, Darla and her husband have taken on other endeavors. They ran Beverly’s restaurant in Pequot Lakes for two summers and they ran a dairy farm for four years.
Over her 40 years of teaching, Darla’s seen a lot of changes. Perhaps the biggest, she said, is technology. She was teaching for 15 years before she ever used a computer.
She’s also seen changes in the attention level of children. She believes she’s watched it get shorter. She’s not sure why, but said maybe technology has a part in that.
Additionally, parent involvement has increased. Darla sees more volunteering, and parents are more often directly involved by coming to the school, she said.
Among the many changes she’s seen, one has been very fun for her. She’s now teaching alongside her former students. Some of the kids she taught are now teachers at Eagle View or Pequot Lakes High School. She’s also seeing the children of former students in her classroom.
Darla’s taught first, third, fourth and fifth grades, but said third- and fourth-graders are probably her favorite because they’re independent but still love school.
Darla loved teaching first grade because of how much growth she could see in the students throughout the year. They often went from non-readers to readers before the year was over.
“What gets to me the most is when you see the light turn on,” she said, adding that it’s a true sense of accomplishment.
Darla said some of her favorite memories are of the times she’s had with her coworkers — laughs in the lunchroom and the sense of camaraderie, which she’ll miss.
One teacher Darla’s taught alongside the longest with is Kathie Harman. Kathie said she and Darla began teaching the same year, though Darla had been substitute teaching at the school before being hired full time.
Kathie said she and Darla taught in the same room, with a curtain dividing each teacher’s area. The two worked together to organize field trips and did a lot of lesson planning together.
Kathie described Darla as a solid, straightforward teacher who is always thinking about how kids would like things. She said Darla was a mentor.
“Darla’s always was the voice of reason and common sense,” she said.
Darla feels bittersweet about retiring, but also feels ready. She has no firm plans, but will enjoy gardening, loves to read and hopes to do some traveling. Her husband is also retired.
When asked what advice Darla would give to other teachers after 40 years of teaching, she answered with a laugh, “Work on patience.”
To the students, she had this advice: “Work hard, do your best, learn from your mistakes and have fun.”