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Teacher plants ag program

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
January 20, 2008
— Diane Runde loves to grow seeds into a bountiful crop, whether it’s the poinsettias in the Craig High School greenhouse or the tomatoes in her garden.

Or in her students.


This industrious teacher has been growing students at Craig High School for 11 years.


When Runde arrived, Craig’s ag department was the educational equivalent of a rocky hillside. The school’s ag department had been defunct for more than a decade. Few Craig students actually live on farms. She worked part time at Craig and part time at the crosstown, more rural, Parker High.


Runde now works full time at Craig. Students register for ag courses in such numbers that a second ag teacher was hired. Students are earning top honors from the FFA and in land- and cattle-judging contests, some at the national level.


The Craig ag program was one of six selected for the National Association of Agricultural Educators Outstanding Middle/Secondary Agricultural Education Program Award in 2006.


To accomplish the turnaround, Runde created new courses to appeal to students who wouldn’t necessarily end up running farms, such as small-animal care, landscaping and veterinary science. She also arranged to take students on trips to competitions and FFA events.


Runde was honored for her efforts with the prestigious statewide Kohl Award, which rewards teachers who have demonstrated superior ability to inspire love of learning in their students, have motivated others and have provided meritorious service both inside and outside the classroom.


“She has the ability to take what is available and make it thrive,” wrote fellow teacher Brad Troeger, in nomination Runde for the award. “She can do this in her programs and her classes as well as in her students.”


Craig teacher Michelle Meier wrote that she had heard from students who never would have graduated “without that extra push from Mrs. Runde.”


Parent Jennifer Frei, whose five children all have felt Runde’s guiding hand, said Runde pushes kids to do things they wouldn’t normally do, taking shy kids and getting them involved.


Runde also was named one of the Janesville School District’s teachers of the year for 2008.


Runde’s accomplishments took long hours, but hard work comes natural to this girl from Galena, Ill.


Runde is the third oldest of eight children. The Runde kids did chores in the morning and after school on the family dairy farm.


“I was one that liked the ‘boy’ jobs,” Runde said in recollection. “I wanted to be outside driving the tractors and all that.”


She went to Illinois State University with the goal of becoming a computer programmer.


She soon found it boring. It was then that her high school ag teacher recommended she try teaching.


Runde has a competitive streak, and she saw teaching as a challenge. That same streak pushed her to go through the steps to be certified as a master teacher.


“She’s a wonderful teacher,” Frei said. “I’d give her a raise.”


DIANE RUNDE
Age: 42
Community: Janesville
Occupation: Craig High School agriculture teacher
Family: Husband, Brian, is a mechanical designer for Stoughton Trailers. Children, Justin, 11, and Anne, 8, are avid hockey players.
Family project: Justin and Anne help with Runde’s plots at a friend’s farm and at the county garden site. They sometimes sell their produce at the Janesville Farmers Market, and the kids get to keep the money. Their excess goes to the ECHO food pantry.
You probably didn’t know: One of Runde’s sisters owns a lead mine/tourist attraction in Galena, Ill.
Best thing about her job: “I really like the students, their personalities. … I like to tell them stories, and I like to listen to their stories.” She said she also knows when it’s time to stop chatting and get back to work.
If she had to do something else: She’d arrange and deliver flowers, “but never to funerals.”
Favorite books: The Harry Potter series. “I taught my son to read with those.”
Music: “I’m a Van Halen fan.”
Person she’d most like to have dinner with: “Al Unser. Senior, not junior,” because she is a longtime Indy 500 fan, a love that goes back to attending the Sunday stock car races with her family. She doesn’t get to sit down and watch the race very often, though. “I have too many things to do.”

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