Realdsen, who taught for two years in Fertile and a year in Lamberton before arriving in Paynesville, called short stints at the start of a teaching career typical in those days. When he arrived here with his wife, Beth, in the summer of 1968, he met a number of the other teachers by June and found they had started teaching here and stayed here.
"That told me something right there," he explained. "We've never talked about moving. It's something we never thought about. We've been happy here. I'm glad my kids went to school here."
Now, three decades later, Realdsen is set to retire, after 31 years of teaching in the local school district and 34 years total.
Realdsen, who grew up in Donnelly and graduated from high school and college in Morris, first had exposure to Paynesville while driving to the Twin Cities as a kid.
At the University of Minnesota-Morris, Realdsen majored in physical education and minored in English. He also played baseball and was a left-handed pitcher for the Cougars.
In Fertile and Lamberton he taught junior high English as well as physical education, but in Paynesville Realdsen has always taught physical education and health. At first, he taught in the elementary grades, but for most of his career he has taught in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
He really enjoys this age group. "Ninety-five percent of them look forward to coming to phy. ed. each day," he said. "That's one of the pluses of this job. They enjoy it. They look forward to being here."
About the only day they dread is when they do a timed mile run to measure fitness. They run it once in the fall and again in the spring for comparison.
Realdsen especially likes teaching students for three consecutive years, which combines with the loose structure of physical education to allow him interaction with the students. "I think I get to know kids really well because of the setting," he said.
Realdsen thinks physical education teaches much more than various skills or fitness techniques. Through competition, students encounter frustration and conflict and must learn to resolve them. "To me it's just as much social education as physical education," he said.
The kids in Paynesville school are generally still very well-behaved, according to Realdsen. He hears frequently from substitute teachers who would teach here anytime.
Realdsen said he will miss his teaching colleagues, the staff, and the kids. He doesn't think it will really set in until next fall when he doesn't have to return for the next school year.
While he'll miss his contact with students, Realdsen said he wouldn't miss the paper work and meetings, which he said grew tremendously during his career.
Over the summer, he plans to work on a house painting crew again. He plans not to work as much in the summer, but may continue working longer next fall. He also plans on taking a horseback-riding trip to the Big Horn Mountains in Montana this summer.
His wife, Beth, plans to continue working as the school nurse. Realdsen, who is an assistant coach on the Bulldogs' state-rated baseball team this spring, plans to continue as a volunteer assistant coach next spring. Realdsen said he enjoys working with head coach Brad Skoglund and enjoys the players.
Realdsen previously served six years as an assistant coach in the early 1970s and has served six years as an assistant again this time around. He also was the head baseball coach for ten years ending in 1985.
After that, he was the head boys' basketball coach for ten years. He also coached junior high football for a couple years. Some of his fond memories from coaching include beating four conference champions to advance to the regions in baseball in 1976, only to lose to St. Cloud Tech. Or beating Morris, his old school, in basketball in his first year as the varsity coach and clinching a tie for the conference title.
His fondest remembrance from teaching is all the students and athletes that he has helped on their way to graduation. He chokes up as he talks about former students, saying, "It's fun to follow what they're doing and see them do well."
Realdsen's newly hired replacement, Brad Nepsund, is a 1990 graduate of Paynesville Area High School and played basketball for Realdsen.
"Paynesville must be a pretty good place," Realdsen concluded, "because people come back here, not just to the school but to the community."
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