Thursday, May 23, 2019
Kasson-Mantorville teacher Jeff Bernards has been a mainstay in the school district for 36 years and was recently honored as the Rochester Post Bulletin’s Teacher of the Month.

Bernards career at K-M an unexpected turn of events

In the past 36 years, thKasson-Mantorville school district has seen plenty of change. There have been new faces, new buildings and new programs that have been injected into the district over the years and have made it what it is today. However, over that same time there has beeone constant in high schoomath teacher Jeff Bernards. In a couple of short monthsBernards teaching career that has spanned nearly four decades will come to a close, but there are plenty of things hes seen around the district that not only spawned his love for teaching, but his love for the community.

I wouldnt have stayed here if education wasnt a priority of the people of Kasson anMantorville, Bernards said. K-M is a pretty good district and it always has been. I’ve been blessed to raise my four children here and I’ve been blessed to be a teacher here because we have good kids and we have good staff.

Bernards path to the K-M district wasnt one that had been planned. Growing up, Bernards spent a lot of timaround his father, who wathe principal at Brooklyn Center High School. As one of the first people hired in the district, he was taskewith building the school from the ground up choosing the schools colors (purple and white) and their nickname, the Centaurs.

Its a half-man, half-beast,” Bernards chuckled. “I’vbeen around Centaurs and I’ve been around KoMets and there arent too many of either as a mascot.

As the son of a principal, Bernards would spend lot of days at the school, bouncing on the gymnastics trampoline or shooting hoops while his dad got work done on Sunday afternoons. While he was always around fellow teachers, the one thing he heard repeatedly was that he never should become one.

“Everyone at the high school said, you dont want to be a teacher, Bernards recalled. You have to deawith kids all day and the pay was terrible and you just didnt want to be a teacher. Looking back, they were trying to make sure that if I was going to be a teacher, I was going to do it for the right reasons and not just because my dad was a teacher.

Bernards would eventually head to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. where he would pursue a degree in business. In order to take those classes, Bernards first had to take calculus and realized he was pretty good and had a passion for numbers. After changing his major to math, he became a tutor and also realized that he had a passion for teaching.

I found out that I liked helping people and that I was pretty good at it, Bernards said. Low and behold, I graduated with a math degree and an education minor and

I started looking at teaching jobs.”

As his job search began, a classmate of Bernards brought up a small community in Southeaster Minnesota that was lookinfor a math teacher.

Kay-sahn-Mantorville?” Bernards said upon seeing the name. Where the heck is that? I had never been to Southeastern Minnesota, but I applied to the job and

planned on being there three to five years, but 36 years later, Im still here.

Bernards arrived in the fall of 1983 and immediatel started teaching calculus and other high level math classes. In addition, the K-M golf coach, Jim Turner had recently retired and the school turned to Bernards to fill the position. He was also brought on for footbalto work on the staff of Dennis Yell and eventually Ivan Koulik and Broc Threinen. After a couple of years at K-M, Bernards brought his wife, Cindy, down who he had met in college, but moved down alone when he had taken the job. From there, the couple had four children (Joshua, Adam, Rachel and Sarah) and became entrenched in the community.

When it was five years later and my wife and I were wondering if we wanted to move, it didnt make sense, Bernards said. I was teaching upper level math classes and was coaching golf and football. I really couldnt ask for a better assignment.

In the classroom, Bernards focused on having his students become advocates for their own educatioand take control of it. He also believes in teaching his students how to handladversity and pick themselves up when they need to.

I try to help them understand that theyre not always going to be successful whether its mathematically

or in real life, Bernards explained. Youre gointo have ups and downs and everybody is good at dealing with the ups. But how dyou deal with the downs? Part of that is helping the kids becoming their own advocates and to have them take an active part in what they are doing.

That style of teaching helped generations of students at K-M and this past month, Bernards was recognized as the Rochester Post Bulletins Teacher of the Month. Former students and fellow teachers have reached out to Bernards to send their congratulations, but he sees himself as just one piece of many that make the district so successful.

It was a surprise, Bernards said of the award. “Theres dozens of teachers in our school system that coulbe teacher of the month. I wafortunate I got recognized and was nominated, but its been fun.” As he enters the final months of his teaching career, Bernards marvels at the district and how much has changed over the years. When he first arrived, K-M had a graduating class of 80 kids, but when his youngest daughter, Sarah, graduated in 2016, that number had grown to 180. That alonwith the other changes in the community have made this place home for Bernards and his family.

We have good kids here, Bernards said. I always say our worst kids are somebody elses good kids. I would say we have a good community that supports education and we have good kids. I’ve just been very blessed to be here.



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Steele County Times & DCI

Steele County Times
411 E. Main St.
P.O. Box 247
Blooming Prairie, MN 55917

Dodge County Independent
121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944

Dodge County Printing
121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944


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