38 years and counting: Reep looks forward to Dickinson Public School’s next adventure
After nearly 40 years in education, Vince Reep still looks forward to coming to work every day.
“We’re in exciting times, and that, makes if for me, fun to come to work,” Reep said. “Building Prairie Rose (Elementary), that was the first — I’ve been an administrator and able to help with many construction projects — but that was the first building from prairie dirt to finished product that I had ever been in charge of as part of that team. It was a wonderful experience, it was fun. It’s a nice school, sounds like we’re going to have more of that, so I hope to stay in the middle of that.”
People question the growth in the community, but Reep finds it exciting.
“Controlled chaos is much more exciting than taxable valuation going the opposite direction and people moving out,” Reep said.
Coming to Dickinson
This is the second oil boom Reep has experienced in Dickinson.
“In the ‘80s this district went through some reductions in force,” Reep said.
Vinceand his wife, Pam, purchased their first home in east Dickinson in 1978.
“They said you should buy it now before 1979 because the prices are going to go up,” Vince said. “We paid $38,500 for that house. The prices got higher, but when the boom went bust we had neighbors around us that were selling their houses for $20,000.”
After graduating from Stanley High School, Vince came to Dickinson State University in 1972 on a track and field and cross country scholarship — running every fall and spring while taking classes.
“Did that in 1972, ran four years of track and cross country, which helped to put me through college,” Reep said.
His majors were mathematics and elementary education, with a coaching minor.
His wife and high school sweetheart, Pam, also graduated from Stanley High School and DSU, albeit two years later on both counts.
The two were married the summer before Vince’s senior year of college, and Pam transferred to DSU after spending her freshman year at Minot State University.
Full-time teacher and student
After graduating from college in 1976 Vince got hired with Dickinson Public Schools, teaching fifth and sixth grade in Gladstone when there was a school there and it was part of the district. After that he spent 10 years teaching at Lincoln Elementary, while working on earning his master’s degree in education administration from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
“We would pack our pickup and pull a U-Haul and move to Grand Forks every summer,” Vince said.
They lived in family housing at UND, a different apartment each year.
“It was decorated in early cardboard, because we used our boxes as our end tables,” Vince said with a chuckle. “But those were fun times. … We got to renew some old friendships of people that we knew from college days that were in Grand Forks.”
He took a few winter courses at Bismarck State College, when combined with his summer work at UND he completed his degree in about three years, finishing up in 1987. All coursework was face-to-face.
“Now, with online stuff, people are lucky,” Vince said.
In addition to teaching elementary, Vince coached track and cross country at Dickinson High school, first as an assistant and, after Title IX, as a head coach for the girls teams.
In 1990 he was hired as the principal at Roosevelt Elementary, where he was for another 10 years.
An avid Chicago Bears fan, Vince had a rivalry at Roosevelt with some of the Minnesota Vikings fans, two of whom were Jane Cornell, who taught fourth grade at the time and Toni Fosaaen, who taught in the Title I program, Cornell said. The Reep family was gone to a game between the two NFL rivals when the teachers decided to prank their principal.
“They happened to lose and he came back to his office being totally transformed into a Minnesota Vikings office,” Cornell said with a laugh. “We were a little afraid we wouldn’t have jobs after that.”
Becoming a leader
Other than the football rivalry, or perhaps because of it, Cornell enjoyed working for Vince.
“I’m happy that he has moved up to being assistant superintendent,” Cornell said. She is now a reading specialist at Prairie Rose.
During his time at Roosevelt, Vince started picking up duties at the Central Administration Building, first enrollment and demographic tracking, and then personnel.
“As more things started getting added to my duties both here — I had an office here (at the Central Administration Building) and at Roosevelt, of course — so I split my time between them.”
When she first moved to Dickinson as a reporter for the Bismarck Tribune in 1992, current School Board President Kris Fehr relied on Vince as a source for stories. On the board since 2001, Fehr looks for Vince’s knowledge and expertise to help make decisions that affect the whole district.
“I really feel that Mr. Reep has the best interest of the Dickinson school district at heart,” Fehr said. “I think we have been very fortunate to have Mr. Reep be our business manager and now our assistant superintendent.”
He was hired full-time as business manager when the position was vacated. Six or seven years ago his title was upgraded to assistant superintendent of schools, as more duties were placed on his plate. Before his last promotion, there wasn’t an assistant superintendent for many years.
“It’s a change, like when I went from teaching and coaching, I missed coaching, but then I had my own school,” Vince said. “Other things take its place, then it’s those Roosevelt students and teachers and parents that become your focus. When I left Roosevelt Elementary and came here, I missed that, but I took on new things.
“Every change that I’ve made in the district, I think has worked out really well, for myself and the district, because change is good to revitalize you.”
Do it all the same
Vince and Pam will be celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary this year, and after 35 years of teaching, Pam turned in her letter of resignation, which was accepted at the Feb. 3 School Board meeting.
“First-grade teachers, my opinion — although I’m so prejudice — they are the hardest working folks in the district,” Vince said. “I have a lot of respect for all teachers, but those first grade and (kindergarten) people, they do wonders for little people.”
In addition to helping develop the minds of thousands of elementary people the Reeps raised two children of their own — Tony and Emily, who both live in Missoula, Mont. Emily has a 19-month old son named Jack, who is the first and only grandchild.
“Without a doubt he is the smartest child in the city of Missoula,” Vince said with a chuckle. “And if you don’t believe me, as his grandma.”
They try to get to Missoula whenever possible to visit their Tony, 33, Emily, 26, and Jack as much as possible, and video chat a few times a week.
Even though they were both in education and worked for the same district, Vince and Pan never taught in the same building.
“It’s never been a problem for us,” Vince said.
Occasionally Vince will get back in the classroom and do fun activities with Pam’s first graders.
“All of her first graders will call me ‘Vince,’” he said. “We were over there with some board members once … and as we’re walking down the hall, ‘Hi Vince!’ ‘Hi Vince!’ and they look at me like, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be Mr. Reep?’ Not to those guys I’m not, because I’m Mrs. Reep’s husband, Vince.”
Teaching, for Vince, is a calling.
“In most districts, especially in North Dakota, you’re not going to become rich being a teacher,” Vince said. “But in almost all of the cases of good teachers, touching the lives of kids and helping them to learn and grow is so worth the experience.
“It’s pretty rewarding, helping kids to grow up and to help them to be productive, higher-order thinking individuals.
“I would never roll my clock back and do it differently, but I’ve been lucky.”