Maxine Strege, principal of two Little Falls elementary schools, is taking a leave, then retiring

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer

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After 35 years in the education business, Dr. Maxine Strege is retiring. She spent 25 years with the Little Falls School District and before that, 10 years in the Bellevue and Seattle, Wash., areas.

The rule of 90 begins in January for Strege. That allows a teacher to retire with  a full pension if their age plus the number of years they have worked add up to 90.

Maxine Strege, the principal of both Dr. S.G. Knight and Lincoln elementary schools, is taking a leave of absence, then retiring Jan. 25, 2013.

“The district and the Board of Education have been so kind to allow me to take a leave of absence early to take care of my mother,” said Strege. “I will officially retire Jan. 25, 2013.”

Strege’s mother, Geraldine, lives in Tacoma, Wash. and her health is failing. Strege will be going out there to take care of her.

Strege was born in Minneapolis and moved to Tacoma as a child. She graduated from Mount Tahoma High School  and attended Western Washing University in Bellingham.

For four years, Strege taught kindergarten in Bel-lingham, then attended Central Washington University in Ellensburg with an early childhood education emphasis.

Strege then taught in Seattle for six years, grades kindergarten and third grade. During the summers, she taught seventh grade math.

“I was taking courses at the University of Washington when a professor asked me what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “I told him I wanted to get into administration and I wanted to make a difference with an emphasis on children. I was seeing things that needed change.”

Strege said she wanted to go to Stanford University in California, but her professor recommended the University of Iowa.

“He really talked it up and he helped me get in with a fellowship,” she said. “It was at the end of the school year and I had to make a quick decision on where I wanted to go. I decided to go to Iowa.”

Strege told all her friends and coworkers she would be back, but that never happened.

Strege received her doctorate in educational administration and post doctorate work in curriculum development.

“While in school, I worked with a publishing company who taught me the ins and outs of publishing,” she said. “I found teachers to pilot yet-unpublished textbooks and edit them. I would collect those edits and compile the information before press time. Because of that, I learned how to get great deals through the publishers for the Little Falls District.”

When her professors urged her to get a job at a university, Strege said she prayed for guidance. While she was making up her mind about her next job, she came across information that Little Falls was looking for a curriculum director.

“I knew Little Falls was near Camp Ripley where my father was stationed in the National Guard,” she said. “He would tell me about taking furloughs in Little Falls and spoke highly of the town. I had to check it out.”

The first thing Strege saw when she arrived in 1986, was St. Francis Convent and she knew she was home. But, she then saw the population sign which read 8,573 and felt the town may be just too small for her.

“I thought Iowa City, population 40,000, was small,” she said. “My head said ‘no,’ but my heart said ‘yes.’ So, I stopped in at the convent and told Sr. Fabian I was going to get a job in town and would stay for an undetermined amount of time. I told her I wanted to volunteer at the convent.”

Strege interviewed with  then Superintendent Jim Hill on a Friday, and returned to Iowa. She got a call the following Monday to return to Little Falls and meet with the Board of Education.

“The Little Falls spelling committee was meeting at the same as my interview. What the administration and the Board did not know was that I had coauthored a K-8 spelling curriculum,” she said. “The committee went to Hill and asked to speak with me. I was hired that day as the K-12 director of curriculum and instruction and teaching strategies.”

While in Little Falls, Strege has worked as a grant writer; curriculum director with a seven-year cycle implementation; she brought teachers in from different countries to teach for a year; started the science and technical magnet school at Dr. S.G. Knight Elementary School; worked with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); started scrapbooks for the community; wrote newsletters for the Morrison County Record; implemented free classes and busing for summer school; worked on curriculum pilots with staff to find out what was working and what wasn’t; worked with assessment testing; wrote industrial education grants to build up the department; helped implement agriculture classes; and helped start partnerships with businesses that supplied internships for the students.

“I will mostly miss the children and the staff,” said Strege. “I will also miss the support from everyone who was there to help the kids. And, of course, the field trips.”

She said she will miss the politics of running a district the least.

In her future, Strege would like to be more involved in early childhood education and pairing senior citizens with young children. She would also like to help students set goals and help them learn how to overcome obstacles.

“I believe every child has potential and that the district is a team to help each student reach it,” she said. “Each community member/parent/teacher/administrator has a role to play to guide each child.

“I will continue to work with Vision Randall, the Friends of Charles Lindbergh group, the St. Francis Association Advisory Board and the Homa Bay Committee in Kenya, Africa, a pairing with St. Francis,” she said.