As a longtime Family, Career and Community Leaders of America teacher in Minnesota and South Dakota, Joan Anderson enjoyed nominating her students for awards and recognition for their studies and classwork.
She recently had that favor returned when she was named a recipient of the Friend of CTE Award, which is given to a Career and Technical Education instructor who is recognized for the commitment and is dedicated to the contributions to CTE.
The award is presented by the South Dakota Association of Career and Technical Education. Career and technical education prepares both youth and adults for a wide range of careers and further educational opportunities. These careers may require varying levels of education — including industry-recognized credentials, postsecondary certificates and two- and four-year degrees, according to the SDACTE website.
Anderson, who retired from teaching in 2012, said it was a surprise for her to find herself at a conference meeting after almost a decade away from the classroom.
“I’ve been a member of the South Dakota Association of Career and Technical Education forever, and I always attended those conferences. So I did not expect to be going back as a retired person,” Anderson told the Mitchell Republic recently.
A native of southwestern Minnesota, she attended college in Mankato, Minnesota and began teaching in Luverne, Minnesota. She chose teaching as a career path because, as she said, there only seemed to be a handful of career paths for women at that time.
“I had a mom who was a teacher and aunts who were teachers, but you have to understand - girls could be a teacher, a nurse, a secretary or an airline stewardess,” Anderson said. “Things were definitely a little different.”
She enjoyed her time in Luverne, both for the excellent classroom experience but also because she met her future husband, Jim, while there. A South Dakota native, Jim brought Joan back to his home state where they both taught at Murdo for a short time. Life and career changes took the couple to a handful of spots throughout the region before they settled in Eureka, where she would spend the bulk of her teaching career.
The small town in north central South Dakota offered a definite change of pace and scenery from Chicago, where the couple had spent four years before heading back west. The smaller population allowed her to get to know her students from a young age through graduation, allowing for a close bond that could be difficult to cultivate at larger schools.
“There are pluses and minuses to both. In Eureka, for example, you know the student from first grade on,” Anderson said. “It was easy to write recommendations for scholarships because I had known them.”
Anderson, 74, spent her entire career in family and career sciences education. She and her students carried out many projects that benefited the community and her students, including a farm safety day, health fairs, healthy relationships day, replacing pop machines with healthy snack vending machines and career days. She also wrote and received grants to help fund and provide speakers, equipment and materials for those projects.
She also worked in public relations for Montgomery Ward in Chicago, honing skills that she would incorporate into her classroom over the years. She helped her students write press releases that were sent to local and regional newspapers, as well as area television stations.
In 1987, she was among 10 teachers recognized nationally by the American Home Economics Association.
Stepping back from her career in 2012 was not easy, but she felt the timing was right.
“It was a tough decision, and I wasn’t sure it was the right decision. Jim had retired and we found this house (in Mitchell) in 2011,” Anderson said. “I did contemplate staying one more year, however I think the key factor is that I had such a nice group of students that last year, I thought it would be nice to be able to quit on a high note with a good group of students.”
She may not head up the front of a classroom, but she hasn’t been able to completely let go of her love of teaching. Since her retirement, she has served as a mentor and role model in her profession and has presented workshops at the local, state and national level. She continues to be active in several organizations where she has served as an office and committee chair.
Several of her former students have gone on to successful careers in teaching themselves.
Having spent decades in the field of teaching FCCLA, Anderson said she has learned the benefits of the program. From leadership skills to public speaking, there are lessons that a student can use for a lifetime after they graduate.
Those who are curious about the benefits should not be afraid to explore the opportunities available to them through FCCLA classes. The list of opportunities is long, and can help students in all aspects of the education, careers and life in general.
“FCCLA is a wonderful opportunity. Students can work on community service projects, public speaking and leadership skills,” Anderson said. “I like to think in FCCLA we teach life skills.”