Longtime elementary teacher retires in District 196
For more than three decades, Karen Colbert has inspired, entertained and brought joy to first-grade students in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District.
Now as the school year ends, Colbert will say good-bye to Glacier Hills Elementary students for the last time. Colbert will retire June 8 after spending her entire career in District 196.
“She’s an outstanding teacher,” said Jeff Holton, principal at Glacier Hills. “She will definitely be missed.”
Colbert dreamed of being a teacher since she was a child.
“I liked working with children ever since I started baby-sitting as a teen,” she said.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Colbert started her career as a first-grade teacher at Westview Elementary School in Apple Valley.
A few years later, she took job at Northview Elementary in Eagan, which was closer to her Eagan home. The city’s landscape was quite different at the time. Colbert found herself following a dirt road to the new elementary school, which was surrounded by farm fields.
Colbert left the classroom in 1980 to raise her children.
Though she took a break from teaching in the district, Colbert didn’t give up the craft. She volunteered to teach community education classes to parents of toddlers.
By 1986, Colbert slowly re-entered the workforce by taking a part-time teaching job at Deerwood Elementary in Eagan.
Colbert took a full-time teaching position in 1993 at Glacier Hills Elementary, which had opened a year earlier.
Much has changed at the Eagan school in the past 19 years.
What began as a small, predominantly white suburban school is now a large, diverse magnet school.
The transition from a traditional to a magnet school was a challenge for many teachers and administrators, Colbert said.
Among other changes, it forced teachers to alter their teaching styles and implement a more rigorous curriculum.
“I think it was a positive change, though,” Colbert said. “It makes kids wonder and ask more questions.”
Throughout her career, Colbert has always taught first grade and has developed a passion for teaching young children.
“I like being the one to lay the foundation of a love of learning,” she said.
Holton noted that Colbert’s passion was ever present in the classroom.
“Karen has a great ability to meet all students where they are and helps them thrive,” he said.
Colbert said she finds this aspect of teaching — helping children grow in their abilities — is most rewarding.
Several students have felt so encouraged by Colbert’s teaching style that they keep in contact with her years later.
“What I liked most about her as a teacher was that she was really sweet to everyone,” said 19-year-old Lauren Draves, a former student of Colbert’s.
Draves, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, said her fondest memories are of Colbert using props to make lessons entertaining.
In one instance, Draves recalls, Colbert used a giant toothbrush and set of teeth to teach good hygiene, and everyone was drawn in by the absurd size of the props.
After retirement, Colbert said she plans to spend more time traveling and visiting family. Her husband, Tom, also retired this year after working for 40 years as Eagan’s public works director.
“I’m excited to start a new chapter, but I’m also sad that part of my life is over,” Colbert said.