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Teacher looks ahead to school changes

Mike Donahue believes that purging class material would have been much more difficult 20 years ago, before everything was stored on computers. (Annie Harman/Echo Press)

10,360 students, 37 years, 3 courses, 2 classrooms, 1 building.

That is how the career of social studies teacher Mike Donahue adds up during his time at Jefferson High School (JHS) in Alexandria.

“Every year is an adventure,” Donahue said while sitting in Room 307, the room that has served as his home base for the past 17 years. “It’s been home.”

Donahue and his wife moved to Alexandria from the Twin Cities in 1977. The original plan was to get out of the city life for just a couple of years. Thirty-seven years later, Donahue is still here, ready for his move to the new Alexandria Area High School (AAHS).

Since he is only a few years away from retirement, most of his career will have taken place at Jefferson.

“I think change is good,” Donahue said. “It will be interesting to see the new academic model and what the results will be.

“I’ve learned in life that moving can be good because you find stuff you don’t use,” he laughed as he described an Apple computer from the 1980s that he had hung on to until this year’s purge.

Though he had to let go of his Apple artifact, Donahue thinks fondly on the memories he will carry with him out of the school, specifically of seeing students perform in talent shows.

“These are kids you had in class, but had no idea of their other talents,” he explained. “All of a sudden you see it, in front of the entire student body, and all you can do is go, ‘Wow!’”

As the doors of Jefferson prepare to close forever, Donahue reminds everyone that the human factor is what’s important.

“It’s the students and the faculty members that matter,” he stated. “In this end, this is still just a structure.”

District 206 invites Jefferson staff, students, alumni, and community members to an ice cream social and open house on Sunday, May 4, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the school, to honor Jefferson’s history. Attendees will also learn more about how the building may be redeveloped and view the design plans for AAHS.

Annie Harman
Annie Harman is a reporter for Echo Press and The Osakis Review. She grew up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in print journalism and history in May 2012. Follow her on Twitter at annieharman
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