She’s not done yet: Former Stillwater High School Spanish teacher wins state award

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Adele Munsterman, left taught Spanish at Stillwater Area High School last school year. She’s pictured with Marjie Hay, president of the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures, after receiving the organization’s highest award (submitted photo)

Spanish teacher Adele Munsterman has been teaching since she was a child. During the summers, she ran a “summer school” for the neighborhood kids, who would sit down on folding chairs with TV trays and do extra copies of worksheets she had saved from the school year.
Munsterman said she knew as a ninth-grader that she wanted to teach, but she didn’t know she’d one day receive one of the most prestigious awards for language teachers in the state. The semi-retired educator recently accepted the Emma Birkmaier Award, the highest honor from the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Language and Cultures.
After 32 years with the Fridley School District, Munsterman ended up at Stillwater Area High School last school year to teach two Spanish classes that opened at the last minute.
Although she lives in Brooklyn Park, Munsterman took the job, because her granddaughter, Natalie Gerber (then a junior), attends the high school.
“I said, ‘If Natalie and I could be in the same yearbook her junior year, that would be cool,’” Munsterman said.
So Munsterman made an estimated 75 mile round-trip trek daily last school year.
Her efforts last year and throughout her life paid off in the recognition of her colleagues at the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Language and Cultures. The council is a professional organization for language teachers from elementary school through college. The Emma Birkmaier Award “honors educators who have had a significant impact on the teaching of world languages in Minnesota,” according to Kay Edberg, chair of the awards committee.
“Coming from the … colleagues and friends within the world language arena, (this) means everything to me,” Munsterman said.
As a young teacher, Munsterman watched others take the podium and accept the awards, and she admired their experience.
“When I’d see people get up and get these awards as a new teacher, I’d wonder, ‘How’d they get to learn so much?’” she said.
Now it was her turn.
“I just got up there (on the podium), looked around the audience and thought, ‘Wow, it’s taken a lot of people in my life for me to become the professional person that I am now.”
Munsterman almost didn’t get here.
When she retired from Fridley schools, she soon got another job offer.
“Blaine High School called me and said, ‘We just heard you retired. How serious are you about that?’”
Munsterman took a job at the school. Since 2009 she has also taught in the Anoka-Hennepin district, Monticello district and Wayzata, as well as at Bethel University.
She’s glad she didn’t quit with retirement, especially after receiving the award.
“I would’ve missed out on this if I had just retired and not taught anymore,” she said.
But Munsterman feels she still has much to learn, and she’s having even more fun as a semi-retired teacher than a regular. Although she moves from school to school a lot, she enjoys the flexibility, and she likes having her first class at 10 a.m. and being done by 2 p.m.
“It’s just ideal for me,” she said. “I really am a free agent. I really am enjoying it.”
This year Munsterman is teaching at Armstrong High School in Plymouth, and she doesn’t plan to quit teaching anytime soon.
“I don’t want to stay at home and clean the house,” she said.

Contact Jonathan Young at jonathan.young@ecm-inc.com

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