It was the inspiration from another teacher, Ken Sczublewski, that made Randy Tabatt of Little Falls decide he wanted to become a teacher.
Sczublewski, a seventh grade teacher at Mary of Lourdes Middle School in Little Falls, was also Tabatt’s baseball coach and every now and then Tabatt saw him wear a sweatshirt from Bemidji State University.
“He impressed me so much as a man and a teacher that I knew that I wanted to go there, too. I wanted to be just like him. Even though he only taught at the school for a short period of time, he taught me a lot, ” Tabatt said.
After graduating from Little Falls Community High School (LFCHS) in 1979, he went on to Bemidji State University. He graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in social studies with a focus on history.
“I was lucky to come back here at the high school and teach here,” he said.
Tabatt started teaching at LFCHS in 1985 and has been teaching for 32 years. He teaches social studies, mostly psychology, sociology and ethics.
In 1996, he earned a master‘s degree in education from St. Thomas University.
He later wrote Sczublewiski, letting him know what an impact he had.
Another person who has had a great influence on Tabatt’s “I can” attitude is his mom, Bunny Tabatt. He was 14 when she gradually became blind because of a disease similar to glaucoma, he said. By the time he was a sophomore in college, she was completely blind.
“We weren’t affected by it so much. The way we approached it at home was more that it was an inconvenience,” he said.
When his dad, Lee, died in 1980, his mom became an even greater inspiration to him.
“Nothing ever got mom down. We never saw any of that. After dad passed away, she was even more determined to live a normal life than at any time before my father’s death,” Tabatt said.
` When it comes to teaching, Tabatt’s philosophy is to let the students figure out things on their own to encourage them to think for themselves.
“They want to know things, but don’t necessarily want to be told,” he said.
Tabatt often refers to his students as “clients,” since it sounds more professional. He understands they are at an age where they don’t appreciate being referred to as kids.
“I provide them a service, so they are my clients,” he said.
The one thing Tabatt enjoys the most about being a teacher is to see the moment the students get a deeper revelation about a topic.
“It’s that ‘aha’ moment, to see the light bulb go off in their heads. Seeing them get really serious and think about a difficult problem and come up with a variety of solutions,” he said.
Tabatt believes allowing the students to really think for themselves prepares them for the future.
Through his 32 years as a teacher, he has seen many changes. These days, students often face a lot more issues than two decades ago.
“When I went to college it was about finding what you wanted to do. Now these days, because of the expense of the college, they feel they need to know right away,” he said.
Tabatt has also noticed that many students may not have any good role models to follow. Remembering the impact Sczublewski had on him, Tabatt does his best to be a good role model to his students. Because of his dedication to his students, several former students have returned, thanking him for his influence.
“I got a call from a young man who said ‘thank you’ and he was a pilot, flying F16s somewhere in the world. Every teacher has those moments. It keeps you going. It makes it all worth it despite any challenges,” Tabatt said.
He believes that any job will have challenges, but the outcome depends on how the worker faces the challenge.
Tabatt was chosen as “Employee of the Month” for March by the Little Falls Chamber of Commerce.
“I was totally shocked when I found out. It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized. I think everybody I work with every day deserved to be. I work with some wonderful people,” he said.
The good Tabatt has done has not gone unnoticed by LFCHS Principal Tim Bjorge
“For over 30 years, Randy Tabatt has challenged students to think critically and creatively. He recognized that all students have opinions, preferences and ideas. Randy allows students to have a voice in his class as he engages students to invest in their learning. Congratulations to a great teacher and an even better person,” Bjorge said.
When he’s not working, Tabatt enjoys spending time with his wife, Lynn, their children Zach and Shae and a granddaughter named Andina, bow hunting and fishing.
As Employee of the Month, Tabatt will receive gift certificates from Fresh Hair Professionals, Friends of Pine Grove Zoo, GoldSmith Jewelers, Minnesota Fishing Museum Hall of Fame and Education Center, Pizza Ranch, ServiceMaster, Silker Studio, Spectrum Marketing Services, Subway and the West Side Bar.
He will also receive flowers from Falls Floral, a cookbook from CHI St. Gabriel’s Health Hospice Program and will have a professional photo taken by Silker Studio.