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Terrific trio of retiring teachers

From left, Sanborn Central teachers Deb Ogle, Candi Danek and Rich Danek pose for a photo outside the school building in Forestubrg. The three teachers will be retiring from the school district at the end of the year. (Matt Gade / Republic)

FORESTBURG — Retiring wasn't a hard decision for Rich Danek.

The long-time high school math teacher had already retired once from coaching football, so when it came time to retire from teaching, he was ready.

But his wife, Candi Danek, and their colleague Deb Ogle had more a more difficult time making the decision.

The trio of teachers will say goodbye to Sanborn Central School District at the close of this academic year. They will be honored, along with others, at a ceremony this evening at the school in Forestburg. Among them, they have a combined 112 years of teaching experience, almost exclusively within the Artesian-Letcher-Forestburg area.

"I'll be bringing Kleenexes with me to awards night, but it's time," Candi said of retiring.

Rich started teaching math at Artesian High School in 1977, after a year at Sisseton Middle School, and stuck with the district through its consolidations and ultimately its move to one school district in 2004.

Candi began her career at South Shore in 1975, near Watertown. She moved to the Artesian area and started teaching at Sanborn Central in 2004, first in the Resource Room, then she took over as the English teacher. She and Rich married in 2004.

Ogle began teaching third grade at the Letcher school in 1991 before it consolidated with Artesian. She was emotional Wednesday afternoon at the thought of her final weeks in the school.

"I don't cry often," she said, smiling and wiping her eyes as Candi agreed. "I just love the kids so much. Every year it's like I have a family in my classroom. It's hard every year when they move on but you get a new class and start a new family."

Like so many rural districts, Sanborn Central finally consolidated but it wasn't a difficult move. The Daneks and Ogle agree that all the teachers, administration and staff always only had one focus — the students.

"We all care about the kids. Everybody. And that makes the kids know that we want them to do well and want them to be successful," Candi said.

"We have a good school community that's concerned about the education of our students," Rich added. "They're willing to help out, like when we built a new school. Many people volunteered to help build."

Rich said the district also boasts a fantastic booster club, staff, teachers and others that go above and beyond.

"That's what makes us strong," Rich said.

Despite the challenges of being a small district, the teachers agree Sanborn Central has progressed with the times. Technology has been the biggest change they've witnessed.

"When I first started, we had an overhead projector and a TV," Ogle said. "But now we have iPads, a computer lab, so many more resources. As a staff member, it's a big change because we have to stay ahead of it for the kids."

Rich said technology has enabled the high school students to take college courses online, leading to some graduates having a semester of college under their belts.

Candi found the loss of the art program and foreign language requirement to be the biggest changes within the high school. She integrates art into her classroom to give artistic students a chance to use their talent.

Each teacher said their jobs are fulfilling and they didn't go into education for the money.

"It's something we enjoy," Candi said. "And we want to get kids to enjoy school."

Rich fondly remembers several former students thanking him.

"They'd say, 'Remember when I asked you why I need this stuff? Thank you for teaching me, because I use it every day,'" Rich said.

As a third-grade teacher, Ogle said it's particularly exciting to see a struggling student have a breakthrough.

"When they have 'ah ha' moments where they just get it, and I get to watch them blossom and grow from there. That's rewarding," Ogle said.

Of their own talents, the Daneks and Ogle are modest.

Ogle has heard herself described as patient, although she does not always feel that patient.

Rich has been acknowledged as a great math teacher.

"It's always nice to hear compliments when you can," he said.

Candi just hopes her students found her entertaining and compassionate.

"I just hope they think I was fun," she said. "I try to make sure they know it's OK if they screw up, to just accept it, move on and fix it."

The retirees won't lose their enthusiasm for the district. While Ogle will spend more time with her family and grandchildren, the Daneks plan to continue attending as many Sanborn Central events as possible.

The hardest part of leaving?

"Not getting to see the people," Candi said as Rich and Ogle nodded. "We're a close-knit group."

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