“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

As an English teacher, I can remember the first time I taught Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.” It was a daunting task. I was unfamiliar with the novel but was expected to teach it to a full class of seniors. I worked each night to stay ahead of my students, but I also had outpouring support from my teaching colleagues.

I find myself thinking of those days and reflecting on how similar my current working situation feels. Beginning a new job in the midst of a pandemic provides a person with a unique sense of appreciation and gratitude for the people surrounding you.

I have had the privilege of spending many summers in Becker County. As a Jenson family, we have always been attracted to the people living in this area. We can still walk down the street and get a “hello” from a stranger or a “thank you” for a door held open when hands are full.

People are honest and genuine. I have always felt very welcomed in this space. In my travels around the state, I have found that this isn’t necessarily true everywhere. I am blessed and thankful for the opportunity to serve this amazing community and school district.

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As we embark on an unprecedented journey of providing quality education in the midst of a pandemic, I am calmed knowing that we have some of the best people working alongside me. Custodians, cleaners, office assistants, coaches, teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators are all working as hard as they can to ensure students have welcoming smiles and positive academic and social school experiences this year.

It does not end with our committed staff, but continues with all of the people outside the school district reaching out to offer their support.

While it may seem to be “the worst of times,” there is something remarkable in the fact that despite the trials and tribulations, there are many examples of how people are making it “the best of times.” We, as a school community, are rising to the occasion. It is a testament to the values we hold dear as a community. It is Laker Pride.

I was introduced to the phrase Laker Pride when I first interviewed here. I really did not think much of it at the time, as generally many districts and communities use a phrase in a similar fashion. As I come to know this community better, what has been made overwhelmingly clear is that Laker Pride is not just a school “thing,” it is a community “thing.”

It is a feeling or an attitude that is demonstrated throughout the community in many different businesses and organizations. It is that commitment and the inclination to do your best and reflect the best in this community that will pull us through our current reality to a better tomorrow.

I firmly believe, through this hardship we will create a new reality for our community of students that will be better than what we started with. We have been forced to be creative, slow down, and learn to appreciate and be grateful for small moments and victories we are making for a better future. In the end, the worst of times just may bring us to the best of times.

Mark Jenson (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)
Mark Jenson (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)