After 40 years in the classroom, Luverne Elementary teacher Sue Hup announced that the 2019-20 school year would be her last. Hup holds a picture of her current first-graders, whom she’s been teaching virtually since March.

Hup retires from 40 years of classroom teaching

If success is measured in numbers, Sue Hup’s 40 years with students earns the Luverne Elementary teacher a gold star for achievement.

At the end of the 2019-20 school year, she is looking for success in retirement.

Hup is leaving students this week in a way she couldn’t imagine when she started her teaching career in 1980.

Since mid-March, Hup and her co-workers have approached education in a whole new way when they set up virtual classrooms online, prompted by the pandemic.

“Distance Learning is something I never dreamed of ever doing,” Hup said. “I would not want to do this all the time either, but I am glad for the experience.”

Computers were educational tools of the future when Hup attended Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where she earned degrees in library science and elementary education. She later earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership.

“Leaving college, computers were just entering into the colleges and only for business majors,” Hup recalled. “All of my school work was done on a typewriter. Now the Distance Learning students at the earliest levels are completing work using a computer.” 

There’s more to education than just computers.

“Most of us entered the education field because of the social, relational aspect of teaching and learning,” she said.

Growing up near Sioux Center, Iowa, Hup knew in middle school she wanted to be a teacher.

“I loved going to school and learning,” she said. “I had a number of experiences with younger children through babysitting, helping with Bible School, etc., so I knew that was the age level I wanted to pursue.”

Hup spent the first five years of her teaching career as the Luverne Elementary School librarian before teaching in the second-grade classroom the next 15 years. The last 20 years she taught first grade.

She said her time with the young learners has been rewarding.

“One of the best parts of teaching children is the ‘lightbulb’ moment,” Hup said. “Sometimes you work and work on a skill, and when the student understands the skill and is able to move forward, it is very gratifying.”

In four decades of teaching, Hup is seeing her second generation of students as children of former students enter her classroom. She is quick to tell these former students that they play a large role in their child’s education.

“Parents feel inadequate to help their child with schoolwork. That makes me sad because parents are their child’s first teacher,” Hup said.

Parents can read to children or quiz them on spelling, in addition to encouraging them with words and smiles to support learning. These are elements teachers know work in the classroom.

“Children at the younger ages are giving and forgiving, ready with stories about themselves, happy to be at school with friends, and quick to say and/or write how they love their teacher,” Hup said. “For the most part, children work hard to do their best.”

Hard work and do your best are lessons Hup emphasizes to her students and, for herself, she’s followed the advice of “be flexible and have a sense of humor” throughout her career.

A passion for learning and children also helps.

Hup’s peers noticed this passion in 2014 when they selected her as the Luverne Education Association Teacher of the Year.

Her advice for anyone thinking about the teaching profession is to never stop learning.

“If you want to mold individuals to be persons of integrity and character, if you want to inspire people to make a positive difference in the world, if you want to encourage and demonstrate that it takes all kinds of people and all kinds of jobs and services in this world, then by all means be a teacher,” Hup said. “Everything we do begins with education.”

Beginning next week, Hup’s future plans are also flexible.

She’ll spend more time with her husband, Ken, and their three children and spouses — Mitch (Sara), Breanne (Jesse) and Matt — and four grandchildren. She also plans on volunteering, reading and spending time at the lake. 

“I’m assured that retirement is right for me,” Hup said. “After 40 years of working with amazing and gifted people and doing what I love to do, it’s bittersweet. Relying on the wisdom of experienced veteran teachers and combining that with the freshness of novice teachers, our school district is in good hands.”

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