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Wollan closes book on teaching career after 41 years

<i>Jon Echternacht photo</i> Jay Wollan closes the chapter on 41 years in education on June 13 at Hudson Middle School. He plans to pick up his golf sticks and give the links a try before getting into anything serious in retirement. Wollan is also a former River Falls City Council member.

Jay Wollan of River Falls has engaged careers in varied fields, but the time has come to close the chapter on his 41-year teaching stint.

Wollan, 63, will teach his last day of seventh-grade math at Hudson Middle School June 13 when the current school term ends.

He plans to pick up his golf clubs and devote the summer to the links before he makes any large decisions about his future.

"I plan to golf, then see what happens in the fall," he said during a break between classes recently.

Wollan, a native of River Falls where he was born, bred, educated and still lives, also plans to put in some time on his mountain bike.

Most of Wollan's four decades in education have been spent in the Hudson system.

He graduated from UW-River Falls with a bachelor's in education in 1970 and signed on to his first job in Lake City, Minn. In 1973 he came to Hudson.

He also has taught seventh-grade math for the better part of his career. In his spare time, however, Wollan ventured into the business world. He leased and operated the Dairy Queen in Hudson at one time.

"I wanted to buy the Dairy Queen," he said, "I was in negotiations with the owner, Norm Olson, when his son lost his job."

The father sold the business to his son and ended Wollan's dream, but not his desire to continue with a business development.

"I took a sabbatical in 1980-81 and built the bowling alley in Hudson," he said. Later, with partners, he operated bowling endeavors in New Richmond and Menomonie along with the Hudson lanes.

But his mainstay has been teaching middle-school aged kids and he said it has been enjoyable.

"I wouldn't be in it this long if I didn't enjoy it," he said. "The school district has been great, progressive and there have been great principals."

"Seventh grade is a hard age to teach," Wollan said because at that age the students are experiencing the emotional and hormonal changes of growing up and math may not be on the top of every student's list for most favorite subjects.

"If you can associate math with the things kids understand it helps, like shopping or working in the garage," he said.

Wollan was on the ground floor of the development of a middle school concept and said, "I really think it's the best thing Hudson ever did."

He went with others to a summer course on the middle school concepts at UW-Platteville a couple decades ago and they began to institute the house concept for a middle school with grades six, seven and eight.

"I love the concept. It's best for the kids and best for the teacher," Wollan said.

Prior to the middle school, the Hudson district functioned under the basic junior high model that included grades seven, eight and nine.

Wollan, who played basketball in high school and college, also tried his hand in a number of coaching assignments including seventh- and eighth-grade basketball, varsity golf, softball, junior high football and varsity track. He has also served in city government in River Falls.

It stands to reason he won't be idle long in retirement.

"I'm not a 'sit stiller,'" he said.

Wollan graduated from River Falls High School in 1966 and earned a master's degree in education from UW-RF in 1988.

He and his wife, Linda, have three children including Eric, 36, Jerrod, 33, and Lindsey, 27, who is planning a wedding this summer.

And just in case he wanted to sit still while retired, he has four grandsons, ages eight, five, four and two, who might have a different ideas how to use his time.