Constructing a legacy

Zach Stockman and Eli Pulkrabek receive instruction from retiring Central High School industrial tech teacher Paul Ruud. (Adam Gruenewald/The Times)

 

by Adam Gruenewald
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It is going to be hard to replace retiring Central industrial technology teacher Paul Ruud.
On a recent school day in the waning days of classes, Ruud was actively instructing students up to his final moments with the district as seniors wrapping up their final projects.
The lone retiree for Central School District, Ruud has certainly left a legacy as the projects he and his students have worked on are plentiful in the community and in classrooms at Central.
On that particular day, much like other days where students got hands-on instruction, senior Justin Fabel was finalizing a table for FFA teacher Jim Mesik, senior Wallace Michels was finishing a cabinet and senior Carter Clemensen was guiding fellow senior Matthew Johnson on creating a wood baseball bat.
For his part, Ruud, 57, was taking his time to work with students prior to his departure after 25 years full-time with Central and 33 years overall with Glencoe-Silver Lake and Central school districts.
Originally from Ham Lake and one of three sons of Paul and Marlys, Ruud got his start working on his parents’ sod farm before graduating from Blaine High School in 1978 and Bemidji State University in 1983 with a degree in industrial technology.
“I started in business and wasn’t enjoying my classes,” said Ruud, adding he was heavily influenced by his high school shop teacher and football and baseball coach Leo DuCharme and his early experience of making a china cabinet out of oak. “I saw how he enjoyed what he did and enjoyed working with kids and I thought that was neat how he did. He was a hands-on teacher and I’ve been able to do that with kids here.”
A sports-minded student, Ruud was active in football where he played in high school and also at Bemidji. Still an assistant football coach at G-SL, Ruud coached wrestling, track and football at Central including head football coach from 1995 to 1998.
“I’ve been coaching my whole career,” said Ruud, adding his own football experience was a key factor. “It went hand-in-hand. With teaching it’s something where if I didn’t enjoy the kids, I wouldn’t be in the business for 33 years.”
He certainly savored the amount of time he spent in the workshop, educating students and also developing connections in the community with businesses like Plato Woodworks.
“I’m sure I’ll miss it, but it’s time to do something different. It’s been a good career,” said Ruud, crediting students who have taken multiple classes or those who took full advantage of just one class and his open door policy. “I have a bunch of students that are in the industry whether they are builders, electricians or carpenters and I hear from kids all the time.”
Ruud and his students have paid back the community too, as they have completed raised gardens near the NYA Community Center, the Stiftungsfest ticket booth, prom and homecoming stages and a large variety of projects within Central.
“There’s been a lot that people don’t notice but kids have been pretty active participants,” said Ruud.
Now is the time for him to retire though as the industrial technology position was starting to change, incorporating more and more computer design and graphics, in additional to traditional machinery.
“I hope whoever they find to replace me can still do the hands-on because I think it’s important,” said Ruud, calling himself the “last of the cavemen” and sharing he taught students basic wiring skills and traditional shop techniques at Central. “Some day these kids are going to own a house and if you can’t do some of the basic stuff, it’s awfully expensive.”
Looking ahead, Ruud plans to stay active coaching Glencoe-Silver Lake football and also enjoy some time traveling to see family. Paul and his wife Cheryl have three daughters, Kati, Kendra and KoLynn and seven grandchildren.
Certainly thankful of the appreciative Glencoe-Silver Lake and NYA communities, Ruud said there are still various house projects he still wants to complete for himself.
“Like anything, the carpenter is the last one to work on his house and it’s the same thing with me,” said Ruud, adding he has built upwards of 50 bean bag boards for friends and family. “My projects are the last to get done.”
Central High School Principal Tom Erickson, who also shared a speech at Ruud’s retirement party, said finding a new industrial technology teacher is going to be difficult.
“In addition to his classroom, Paul has helped out around the school a great deal so he’s become one of those staff members that I’ve truly relied on both personally and professionally,” he said, adding Ruud’s impact on the school in terms of numerous projects and also in terms of developing connections with students and staff is substantial. “There have been some things that have been abundantly clear to me and one is that Paul has cared about every last student that has come through his classroom.”
Much like the senior students who shared their fond sentiments of Ruud and his hands-on guidance, Erickson, who partnered with Ruud frequently for lunchroom duty, said he and Ruud shared a lifetime of stories and jokes during Erickson’s seven years as principal.
“He’s always been a positive and helpful co-worker who has gone above and beyond what his job entails,” said Erickson, describing Paul as gregarious and someone who loves life. “When it comes to his job, he takes it seriously and when it comes to students, he’s compassionate and caring… Paul is going to leave a space when he leaves.”

Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.