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Niklaus retiring from DL School District

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Detroit Lakes School District Education Director Lowell Niklaus will be hanging up his hat at the end of the school year.

The announcement was made at Monday night’s school board meeting, prompting thanks and gratitude from board members who called Niklaus a “great mentor” throughout his 21 years in the Detroit Lakes school district.

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But Niklaus’s journey in education stretches much further back - nearly four decades.

“I didn’t want to go into teaching,” admitted Niklaus, a Belgrade, Minn., native who had just earned his degree in psychology.  “But in the ‘70’s there weren’t a lot of jobs in psychology, so I went back to school to get my credentials in education,” he added, hoping to be a school counselor.

But young Niklaus would soon find out that schools then expected him to teach first, counsel later. So, he took a teaching job in Linton, N.D. His goals in psychology would soon be pushed to the side as he found his niche in academics. “I got into teaching because I thought I could make a difference for a few kids; I got into administration because I thought I could make a difference for more than just a few kids,” said Niklaus, who went on to principal jobs at Norman County West in Halstad, N.D. and at Dakota High School (now Northern Cass) in Arthur, N.D.

Then, in 1992, he found himself in Detroit Lakes as the school’s education director, which he did before becoming the district’s superintendent. Although he held the superintendent position for eight years, Niklaus found himself missing the satisfaction of his old job. “I wanted to go back to what I was doing before, because as superintendent, it’s a lot about budgets and things like that,” said Niklaus, who, when the time was right, gave up his position as superintendent to once again work as education director.

Since then, he’s been in charge of curriculum setting, implementing and assessing. He’s taken on the ever-growing responsibility of overseeing the slew of mandatory testing required of students and also took on the role of community education director, which encompasses the Early Childhood Family Education program and the ABE/GED programs.

Throughout the years, Niklaus’s love of everything surrounding education has been amplified by what he calls his “love affair with technology.” Over the past decade, Niklaus says the implementation of technology is one of the most significant changes to hit the classroom, and he was instrumental in getting iPads into the hands of every Detroit Lakes student in grades 5-8.

“Technology can’t teach, but it’s a great tool for teachers to use,” he said, adding that he has also loved to see the evolution of how teachers teach. “When I started teaching, teaching was stand and deliver. Teachers talked, kids listened, that was it,” said Niklaus, who says his experience visiting classrooms this week was much different. “Kids are so actively involved; teaching is so much more of a science.”

Although Niklaus still has another six months of work ahead of him, he says he knows exactly what he’ll be doing when retirement hits.

“Nothing,” he laughed, “I haven’t had a summer off since the eighth grade, so I’m taking the summer off.”

Niklaus says his goal from long ago was to live by a lake and close to a golf course, and now that he does, his goal is to actually use that lake and golf course. “And visit grandkids,” he added, smiling. Niklaus says his wife, LaVerne, gets to visit their four grandchildren (with two on the way) quite often down in the Twin Cities, “and now, I’ll get to do that more, too,” he said.

Although Niklaus says he’s looking forward to retirement, he does say he’ll miss his job. “I’ll miss the excitement of kids learning and knowing that maybe you had a small part in generating some of that excitement.”

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