Karlene Hatleli
Karlene Hatleli
Karlene Hatleli took years to graduate from first grade.

Oh, the satisfaction...

"I have taught first graders for almost all of my teaching career," said the retiring Kingsland first grade teacher, "and I have taught grades two through five as well. First graders are definitely my favorite age and stage. Each day is a surprise! I always have a plan for our time together, but I never know where they will take me each day. They are truly delightful. I have always said that I liked teaching students in grades two through five, but I love teaching first graders."

Hatleli, who is the eldest of eight children and who grew up where "there was always someone to read to or teach," graduated from Minot State University in North Dakota. She decided to become a teacher because "I also had some very positive experiences as a student...I respected and admired so many of my teachers, so I wanted to be just like them."

She started her teaching career as a fifth grade teacher in Carrington, N.D. Once she and her husband started their family, they chose that she would stay at home with the children until their youngest went to kindergarten.

So nine years later, she went back to teaching, this time in Harmony, as a third and fourth grade language arts teacher. That was a one-year position. A year later, she accepted a job in Wykoff as a first grade teacher, and she has been with the Wykoff and Kingsland school district ever since. She has taught a total of 29 years.

Hatleli noted that when she began teaching "there was more flexibility and time to do 'fun' projects. Now with all of the accountability and testing, our scheduled days are very full with learning that will enable students to meet the standards by the end of the school term."

She most enjoys the moments between the requirements, however. "My favorite part of teaching is reading to my students. I love it when they interact with a story and get all excited about what may come next. Along with that comes the time when they are able to read a complete story to themselves just for enjoyment. It opens up a whole new world for them.

"I have been so blessed to be able to go to a job every day that I love. Each day is something new and exciting. There are so many 'aha' moments in the life of a first grader. This is the age and stage where they start putting all of their skills together. They become fluent readers and descriptive writers. I get to watch that firsthand. It is so rewarding to watch a child decide to choose a book as an activity and then giggle at the humor or share the information that is in the book with a friend. My students make me smile every single day."

Though she'd like to see the "aha" moments for years to come, Hatleli has great outdoor plans for her retirement. She's determined that this is the time to retire because her husband retired from teaching a few years ago, but she wasn't quite ready at that time. "Now, the time seems right. We want to spend more time doing things with family. Retirement gives us that freedom. I would like to spend more of my time with our five granddaughters. We enjoy spending time at our lake house in Wisconsin where we all gather as often as we can. I enjoy the outdoors and fishing and biking, and hope to do more of those things in the fall."

She won't miss having to get up when her alarm clock sounds at 5 a.m. every weekday, but she will definitely miss her students. "I will miss interacting with children. I also will miss the wonderful staff at Kingsland schools. I have worked with so many wonderful families in this district, and I want to thank them for sharing their son or daughter with me."