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Haven't we seen you somewhere before?
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A "string of coincidences" is how Rossman Elementary kindergarten instructor Anna Schuld describes the process that led to her first permanent teaching assignment at the same school where she had attended classes as a child.

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Schuld is the daughter of Rachel Pederson, who herself was a first grade teacher at Rossman for 35 years -- until her retirement last May.

"My first day of not teaching at Rossman was her first day of teaching there," Rachel says.

Anna had not applied for her mother's first grade teaching position when it became vacant last spring. But when a new position for a kindergarten teacher opened late this summer, due to a large influx of kindergarten-age students into the district, she decided to give it a shot.

"We had between 300-400 applications, and interviewed 16 teachers," says Rossman Elementary Principal Sandy Nelson, who was on the four-person interview team that reviewed the prospective candidates. "I thought she was the best qualified, by far -- the whole team did."

Despite this vote of confidence, Anna almost ended up not taking the job -- her husband, Eric, had received a job offer in his chosen field, youth ministry, on the same day she was notified that she had been chosen for the Rossman position. The problem? His job offer was for a position in the Twin Cities.

After some lengthy discussions, they decided they would take the chance of moving back to Anna's hometown, rather than remaining in Minnetonka, where they had been living.

"Getting a job teaching in the Twin Cities is really challenging," Anna says. (She had been working as a substitute teacher in the Twin Cities area for the past year, since graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead with a degree in elementary education.)

So about three weeks before the start of the 2006-07 school year, Anna accepted the offer at Detroit Lakes -- which meant that she had only a handful of days to prepare before the start of teacher in-service workshops.

When Anna learned which classroom she had been assigned at Rossman, that proved to be the biggest coincidence of all: It was the same classroom where her mother Rachel had taught for three decades.

"They moved my (former) first grade class down the hall, next to the other first graders," Rachel notes.

Much of the classroom supplies Pederson had accumulated through the years, such as stuffed animals, books and other teaching aids, she was glad to pass on to her daughter -- the irony, Rachel says, is that she had packed them up and moved them to her home just a few months earlier, and now, she had to move them all back again.

"This room was practically empty," Schuld says. "The walls had all been painted white... it looked completely different (from when Rachel taught there).

"My mom and my husband helped me get ready for the first day of school -- I definitely put them to work. We put in some 12 hour days."

With one week of classes now under her belt, Schuld says she feels pretty comfortable at Rossman -- despite the fact that four of her former elementary teachers are now her peers.

"It's been strange," she admits. "But all the teachers here have been very gracious and welcoming.

"This first week has been tiring, but a lot of fun. We're (Anna and her students) working on basic things, such as raising our hands and making a line. They're very sweet," she says.

Anna admits that she got a real boost when one of her students told her that he wanted to come to kindergarten "every day for the rest of my life."

"It helps a lot when they say how much they love school," she adds.

"I'm really proud of her, and I feel she's sort of a natural at teaching," Rachel says. "I know she's going to be great, and I'm glad she's got this opportunity to show everyone what she can do. I'm really thrilled for her.

"She's her own person, and she has her own teaching style -- frankly, I think she's going to be better at it (than I was)."

"My mom has always been a great role model," Anna says. "She's very inspirational, and I've always looked up to her. She's impacted so many children's lives."

Nevertheless, Anna says, she didn't envision becoming a teacher when she entered college.

"I tried being a music major, but it wasn't quite interesting or challenging enough. I've always liked kids, and for me, it's all about helping them to develop and grow -- helping them to think for themselves and use their imaginations."

"We're really proud that Anna is able to be part of our staff," Sandy Nelson says, adding that Anna is not the only former Detroit Lakes student currently teaching in the district (nor was she the only one interviewed for the kindergarten position).

"It feels very good to know they feel good enough about their experiences here to want to live in Detroit Lakes again and to teach school here."

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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