Ron Rolfes

Ron Rolfes, a retired history/social science teacher and coach from Wynot, NE, has lived in rural Nebraska all his life, growing up on the family farm southeast of Menominee, attending Wayne State College for his education degree and after a couple short stints teaching at West Catholic Elementary School in Fordyce and Menominee and Homer High School, settled to a life well-lived in Wynot.

“I loved the teaching but the technology had become very challenging and stressful,” Rolfes said. The increased use of computers for reporting student documentation and keeping track of all the student assessments became more of a job than he was interested in.

“Over the years, yes, education has changed,” Rolfes said with a smile. “When I graduated from college I thought I knew everything and in reality, I knew nothing.”

Rolfes did his student teaching in Bellevue where students were divided into tracks. His group of students were track one students – the cream of the crop. All the students responded in class and did their homework. But when he signed a contract with Homer, he experienced ‘culture shock’ he said.

“I knew how to write lesson plans but not how to deal with those students who did not do their homework and cared even less,” Rolfes said. “And those students were in the classroom with all the smart students. How do I deal with that?”

Over the years Rolfes learned to teach those students with great success and also took advantage of many workshops offered through the Educational Service Units but he believes classroom management techniques are better taught in college-level education classes today and teachers are better prepared.

“The students today are different as well as from when I started,” Rolfes said. “Kids are more vocal and speak out in the classroom more often in a variety of inappropriate ways.”

He added youth are lacking in respect for older people as well as each other. Sometimes they need to learn respect is earned in the classroom and everywhere else. He remembers when he grew up, the teachers were always right, the student was always wrong and the punishment when a student returned home at night was probably worse than what the teacher dealt out at school.

Still with all the technology upgrades and school district requirements for student participation in extracurricular activities, Rolfes enjoyed working with the students. Even when the football season would grind week after week, he worked hard to keep the students eligible to participate. He said it was a continued cooperative effort between the teachers and coaches, good communication with the administration and offering educational help to all the students when they needed it.

The constant progress the Wynot School District makes in the face of adversity with upgrading their facilities to ensure the future of Wynot makes Rolfes very pleased he lives where he does.

“Whenever its necessary, the community comes together and supports projects like the new addition,” Rolfes said. The community is encouraged to see former graduates and alumni decide to move back to Wynot to raise their children and be part of a small rural school district where all the students get a chance to play and participate.

“Eventually though, we all realize it’s a numbers game,” Rolfes said.

Every year schools in rural areas dream of population explosions andfight with urban state senators for funding, hoping to remain in the game he said.After two years of retirement, it’s not the teaching Rolfes misses as much as Friday nights. Rolfes started coaching basketball at Wynot and after a couple years, moved into an open spot on the football coaching staff. He has been a permanent influence on Wynot sports and especially football until he retired, leading the Wynot youth in a strong presence on the football field and garnering second place at state.

Rolfes was happy to pass the reins over to younger coaches, a very competent young coaching staff he said, who do a good job with theWynot youth.

Still sports were always important to Rolfes.

“When I was growing up, playing baseball during the summer inevery other small town in the area was all we had to do,” Rolfes said.

So, it was a natural move to try out for baseball at Wayne State, when he enrolled in classes. Rolfes walked on during fall tryouts and made the team. He played college level ball all four years and held the record for the fastest runner on the team while he was there. In the summer months, he played for the South Central League and also the Cedar County league for 12 years.

“My fondest memories are, as I said, Friday nights but I am very happy with the years I played baseball,” Rolfes said. “It’s hard to say which memories are more special.”

Two years into retirement, Rolfes is enjoying his grandkids and all their sporting events. He and wife Rose have three grown children and seven grandchildren. In between he golfs and does some deer hunting but he can still be seen walking down the halls at Wynot High School.

“Sometimes I substitute teach, when I feel like it,” Rolfes said once again smiling. Other times like during the summer months, he can be found in his ½ acre garden behind his house. He is also involved with teaching driving education during the school year in Wynot and during the summer months, at Hartington High School and Cedar Catholic High School. And then there’s the Wynot sports’ results he writes for a local paper.

But Rolfes’ newest endeavor is city government. He is the chairman of the Wynot Village Board and in his second term of service to Wynot’s residents.

“I wanted to be involved and do some public service,” Rolfes said.

“Things were stagnant in Wynot and we needed change. It’s been a mixed bag.”

Wynot is booming and houses are being built. There is a lot of activity around town Rolfes said and the board is looking for ways to further economic development in the small town. New businesses are interested in setting up shop and they need help. Grant funding is being explored while the Village works to pay off the recent funding for street and water upgrades. A Veterans Memorial is under constructionin the Village Park and he thinks the community is just getting started.

“We hope to form an Economic Development group of area volunteers or an investment group to address these issues and have a special goal to develop a housing subdivision,” Rolfes said.

But along with lack of funding, land availability is a challenge to Wynot’s growth. Rolfes is excited to explore solutions and grow Wynot’s future.

“I have no desire to live in the big city,” Rolfes said. “I like rural Nebraska and love living in Wynot.”