Growing up, Joan Streater often played “school” with her older sister in their basement.
When Kathy pursued elementary education as a career and fell in love with teaching sixth grade, little sister again followed in her footsteps. While Kathy became a principal in the St. Cloud area, Joan found her true passion: working with children.
This year, Streater is retiring from teaching fifth grade at North Branch Middle School after exclusively serving North Branch schools for 38 years. As brought to light recently, her true passion revolved around focusing on the individual student, and she has contributed to the learning and development of more than 1,100 children who often had lessons of their own in the classroom.
When asked of her love of especially reading and literature, “I’ve always loved teaching reading and writing … and math and science and social,” Streater said of the subjects she’s taught over the years. “My mother is 94 years old and loves to read. I hope to have grandchildren some day and continue our family’s love of reading.”
After graduating in 1971 from Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minn., she entered the education program at St. Cloud State University. Then it was off to North Branch, where she began her teaching career as the Title 1 lead teacher in 1975-76.
“I started off my career teaching with people who inspired me to be proud to be an educator,” said Streater, who also instructed the fourth grade. “They were hard working and had a strong faith. We’ve been friends for 38 years.”
Also inspiring to her have been husband, Bob, and sons Adam and Alex.
“When our two sons went through our schools, that made me want to improve how I was getting through to my students,” she explained. “Having a parent’s perspective helped me understand how children learn, and it also helped me understand what information parents need to have in order to know how to support education at home. My husband and my family have always been very supportive of my career. North Branch has always had a strong staff development program. We were always receiving training on research-based practices and delivery systems.“
For example, after last year’s administrative observation, Streater received this comment on her evaluation: “Your lessons and creativity were exceptional; really the best I have ever seen. It’s refreshing to see a teacher in action who really understands the art and science of teaching.”
For Streater, “All these things kept me enthusiastic about education. It’s very hard to realize that 38 years have gone by,” she said.
While some educators with long careers may have had a single classroom to call “home,” Streater has had many. Despite the several moves within the district, however, she always saw it as a positive, an opportunity.
“I’ve packed up between 80 to 100 boxes of my classroom supplies, six times, and moved into different buildings due to budgets and student enrollment,” she recalled. “Every move has been positive. It’s given me the opportunity to work under the leadership of many different principals, with different leadership styles. The moves have also given me the opportunities to work with the different staff in each building and see how truly dedicated and hardworking our North Branch staff is. All of this has had a lasting impact on me and has shown me how blessed I am to have been in education.”
There have been times when a teacher is the student, too. Streater can attest to this, as she’s been on the receiving end of many unexpected lessons, which also reaffirmed her passion for teaching.
“I have learned so much from students,” she said. “One thing I’ve learned is that I love teaching, and that what we do doesn’t just affect a day but a lifetime. It’s so rewarding to have former students, or their parents, stop me in the community and say I was their favorite teacher or fifth grade was their favorite grade. I’ve loved going to my students’ high school graduation parties and seeing their fifth-grade writing folder on their display table. My students have taught me how important it is to be patient, laugh together and tell them that I care about them. And I have.”
Streater’s family knew it was a hard decision for her to retire at the end of this school year. And they surprised her with a gift that will keep on giving through the Streater Family Scholarship, which will be awarded to a graduating North Branch senior starting with the Class of 2014.
“They told me that with this gift I can continue to feel like I’m influencing student learning and that our family is continuing to make a positive contribution to this community,” she said. “My mother-in-law was a North Branch Middle School (physical education) teacher, and my father-in-law was a Forest Lake High School language arts, debate and speech teacher. My husband and our two sons have all graduated from North Branch.”
Indeed it has been a long and rewarding career for Streater. So in retirement, how does the next chapter begin?
“I haven’t planned ahead at all to what’s happening after retirement,” she admitted. “Our district has faced incredibly sad events this year. I count my blessings every day and enjoy each day to the fullest.”