Thursday, June 13, 2024

Cherished teacher leaves legacy of excellence and a love of lifelong learning

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CHELAN – Dane Johnson, retired teacher and beloved community member, was recently acknowledged with a Blue & White Excellence Award at the Manson Chamber of Commerce Night to Remember, an evening celebrating those who truly go above and beyond for those they serve.

Dane, talented and passionate at many pursuits, has traveled many paths through the years. A true Renaissance man, he has acted as teacher, group home counselor, dentist, outdoor camp director, and served as cook at Chelan’s former Emerson Street Cafe and when staffed in Holden Village. Dane has additionally worked in construction and house-painting. 

Dane retired last year from teaching, though will long be remembered by many a fortunate student, parent, or co-teacher for his dedication to his teaching and facilitating the growth and development of future generations.

Originally hailing from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, Dane attended undergraduate courses at St. Olaf College, a liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in Chemistry in his time at St. Olaf, and then obtained a degree as a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) from the University of Minnesota. Post-study, he practiced dental work for a year, then moved to Madagascar to pursue dentistry there.

He settled permanently into the Lake Chelan Valley in 1993, however, he was first enticed to the area via Holden Village (HV) a decade prior in 1983. That summer, upon his return from Madagascar, he acted as a member of the HV summer staff. He then spent time working at a group home and camp for young boys in Northern Minnesota, before returning to Holden in 1987 as a member of their long-term staff, staying this time for three years. 

It was at this point Dane and his future wife would embark on a journey to Billings, Montana where he would be certified to teach, a move that would alter the course of Dane’s career forever. Of his long journey toward teaching, Dane shares, “I was so fortunate to find my passion in life, even if it took me quite a while to find it.”

Dane had always enjoyed whatever he pursued, though, until the idea of teaching came about, hadn’t felt particularly called to any one role. It was in his time in Holden Village that he would have his first foray into working with students.

 “Up at HV,” he recounts, “the teacher there got me involved in her classroom, and I really enjoyed it. Once I got into teaching I realized that this was it. It was fulfilling, engaging…I love learning so it was that, and more.  Relationships with the students were so rewarding as well…”

Dane, now an experienced teacher of over 25 years, has had the joy of working in many educational settings and in varying capacities. He received his re-certification in teaching online through Western Governors University, and, at this point is certified to teach grades K-8 and 6-8 Science. 

First teaching at Chelan Valley Independent School (CVIS) for many years, then teaching his last 12 years with the Manson School District (MSD), Dane has had the privilege of teaching primarily in multi-age classrooms for almost the entirety of his career in education. The only exception to his work in multi-age settings was his very last year of teaching, wherein he was a dedicated 5th grade instructor. 

In his beginnings at CVIS, Dane taught in a grades 4-6 multi-age classroom wherein he taught all subjects just shy of drama and music. He then transitioned to a grades 6-8 middle school classroom within the MSD where he taught most everything with the exception of students’ electives.  

Of his dedicated experiences in multi-age classroom settings, Dane shares, “I truly believe in multi-age. Youngers being mentored by olders, but also sometimes showing the olders that they, too, can lead…it has been shown that multi-age classrooms are more effective in instilling confidence in students and improving student behavior and self-concept. Why more schools don’t do it, I am not sure.  It might be more work for the teacher, but the outcomes, to me, are worth it.”

He expands upon his teaching philosophies, “Kids are a lot alike but learn differently. As a teacher it is important that you find how a kid learns and help them in that way. Teaching experience is so important because you encounter each of those ‘ways of learning’ over the course of many year—they don’t all appear at once. l know as I got more years of teaching under my belt, I realized how deficient I was in my early years as a teacher, and how I got better as I went. That was exciting for me.”   

Dane values offering hands-on learning opportunities as often as possible. He recounts some of his favorite memories of teaching being the play productions that students put up, and field trips he had the pleasure of taking with students through the years. He’s had the joy of adventuring with classes out on the Puget Sound for three-day sailing expeditions, and stargazing with students as a special ending to a unit on Greek Mythology. 

He remembers, “Union Valley is a great place to do that as there are no street lights. The stars were glorious and the kids were having a blast the whole time we were there.”  

Dane retired from teaching formally in June of 2023, and gathered with long-time friends and neighbors to celebrate. Retirement has offered Dane flexibility to pursue his life as a Renaissance man with added fervor, extra time devoted to his myriad of passions. 

He enjoys spending time with his family and friends very much, often working on music with his wife, children, and friends. He enjoys writing, reading, woodwork, gardening, and watching volleyball. He is also a devoted Wisconsin sports fan.   

Dane has returned this school year to the MSD to be of support in varied capacities, and plans to be increasingly involved as the school year moves on. He will be a part of a reading program, and recently assisted with the grades 4 and 5 production of “A Christmas Carol.” 

Katie Lindert: 509-731-3211 or katie@ward.media

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