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DLHS secretary wins state award

Joleen Skolte has been the secretary for Detroit Lakes High School Principal Steve Morben since 2007. Morben nominated her for the regional Office Professional of the Year award this fall -- and the Minnesota Associaiton of Secondary School Principals chose her as the state winner as well. Photo by - Vicki Gerdes

Though the formal award presentation won't take place until the end of January, Detroit Lakes High School's Joleen Skolte was notified earlier this month by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) that she had been chosen as their 2012 Office Professional of the Year.

Skolte, who has served full-time as DLHS Principal Steve Morben's secretary since 2007, was nominated by Morben for the MASSP Western Division award earlier this fall -- and on the first week in December, Morben was notified that Skolte had been chosen as the state winner.

"It was so nice of Mr. Morben to do that," Skolte said on Monday. "He's a very good boss ... I couldn't ask for better."

A native of Mezeppa, Minn., where her parents still live, Skolte initially trained to be a teacher, earning a degree in health and physical education from Winona State University.

"I taught at Bertha-Hewitt for five years, before I got laid off," she said.

She then moved into the corporate world for a few years, working in the human resources department at Minnegasco in Mankato.

It was during this time that Skolte would meet and marry her husband, Frank, and they would begin the process of raising their family.

"We lived in Rosemount, Minn., for 18 years before moving here (to Detroit Lakes) in 2004," Skolte said.

During their years in Rosemount, the couple also raised two children, Jill and Jason. When Jason was diagnosed with autism, Joleen decided to leave her job at Minnegasco and try to find a job that would allow her to stay closer to home.

"I first started as a paraprofessional at Apple Valley, in the special education department," she said.

When the new Eastview High School opened in Apple Valley, Skolte began working there as a child study secretary, also in the special education department.

She would continue in that position until she and Frank moved to Detroit Lakes in 2004.

"My husband works for the Teachers Retirement Association, and when they opened an office in Detroit Lakes, it was a wonderful opportunity for us," Skolte said.

"We love it up here. We miss our neighbors (in Rosemount), but not enough to move back there. We're both originally from small towns, so this fits us perfectly."

Shortly after moving to DL, Joleen started working as the attendance secretary at the middle school, but was "bumped" out of that position when the Callaway Elementary building closed, and another employee from that school had seniority over her.

Skolte then started working as the front desk receptionist at the Detroit Lakes Public Schools administration building.

"I was just happy to find something (a job) in the school system," Skolte said.

She stayed in that position full-time until Morben's secretary, Julie Pearson, became ill and had to take a leave of absence.

"She had cancer," Skolte said.

For that school year, 2006-07, Skolte divided her time between the district office and the high school, until Pearson passed away in 2007.

That fall, Skolte began working full-time as Morben's secretary, and has been in that position ever since.

As the principal's secretary, she manages Morben's schedule and helps out students and parents in the school office.

"I've always enjoyed working with teachers and kids in an education setting -- I suppose that's the teacher in me," Skolte said.

She is scheduled to receive her award on Jan. 30, as part of the MASSP winter convention in Minneapolis.

"Mr. Morben is making sure that I go," Skolte said with a smile, adding that while she knew that her boss had nominated her for the district award, she had no idea that her nomination meant she was in the running for the state award as well.

"It really was an honor just to be nominated," she said. "I was pretty surprised to get that call (from the MASSP president)."

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454