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Finished after 40 for Keller -- Teaching grandchildren of former students is a hint its time to retire

Longtime English teacher, golf coach and athletic director Ken Keller leaves Dickinson Trinity High School with a sense of accomplishment and pride in his students.

Keller is retiring after 40 years of service at Trinity. His last day of teaching was Friday and his last graduation ceremony is today.

The wall of his English room held rows of athletic trophies and awards. He is confident his students will go forward into college and careers with a strong background in English and literature.

Our ACT scores reflect the fact weve been very successful in all areas of high school, he said.

He said English is a challenge, but he worked to make it interesting and relative to the students.

None of my students will have any grammatical spelling errors on their marquees when they are business people, he said.

Keller is a native of Dickinson, the son of George Keller and the late Dorothy Keller. He attended Crosier Seminary in Onamia, Minn., for two years before enrolling at New England St. Marys High School.

Keller then enrolled at Dickinson State University, and he was encouraged by his Uncle Ted to study English in college because of his verbal aptitude.

While he was student teaching at Dickinson High School, an English position opened at Trinity at the end of October 1965.

It was divinely inspired. I stepped out of student teaching and stepped right into Trinity High School, he said.

Hes never regretted the decision to become an English teacher.

Not for one moment. If I could, Id do it all over again. I really enjoyed my career, without a doubt, he said.

He started teaching five English classes. This last semester, he had two English classes and three study halls. He also served as the junior class advisor, helping to plan the junior-senior prom.

He has taught students in every graduating class since the school opened. He recently counted 16 of 22 students in one English class as second-generation Trinity students. He even had a third-generation Trinity student.

Im teaching grandchildren. Thats when I knew it was time to leave, he said.

Keller was appointed by Superintendent Morris Martin as the athletic director position in 1973.

The athletic director administers all the athletic programs, develops schedules, gets officials, lines up transportation and communicates with parents, he said.

Keller said the joke around school is 85 percent of his salary is paid by teaching, but 50 percent of his time is athletics.

When Trinity went to Class B, he was responsible for even more meetings and scheduling challenges. Keller credits the success of Trinitys athletic teams to the athletes themselves.

At first, we were not very successful. People have a tendency to forget that. We didnt come blazing into the Class B world by any means, he said.

We developed our programs. Our coaching is a veteran coaching staff, he said.

Keller said 80 percent of the senior class, both boys and girls, have won varsity letters this past year.

Thats astounding, he said. Our kids play more than one sport. Another reason for our success is we have a good weight conditioning program.

Reflecting on the 2005-2006 season, Keller said the Trinity Titans brought home the 2005 Class AA football championship. The Titan boys basketball team won the Class B state championship trophy. The girls volleyball team took the consolation title at the state tournament. The girls basketball team took sixth place at state. The Trinity track team also won two state track titles in the last four years prior to this past weekend.

Keller said Trinitys track team also shows promise this spring.

Every one of our head coaches in our school also coaches in the track program. Its a continuation between sports, he sad.

As head golf coach, Keller said, Weve been at the state tournament since 1995. Hopefully, we will be again.

Keller has coached varsity basketball, football and track. He was head coach when the basketball team went to the state tournament in 1975 and 1979.

At the state level, Keller served as both an athletic director and Class B golf representative. He was named District Athletic Director of the Year six times, Regional Athletic Director of the Year six times, State Athletic Director of the Year twice, Regional Golf Coach of the Year three times, State Golf Coach of the Year once, the Dickinson Jaycee Outstanding Young Educator of the Year and has received the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce educator award.

Kellers pride and support of Trinity extends beyond the school.

All my children graduated from THS. Ive been lucky enough to teach all four children, he said.

He gives credit to his wife LaVonne for her support during his tenure at Trinity.

I was never at home. She did a nice job of raising our children, he said.

Their children all attended the University of Mary. Daughter DeLana Boll teaches second grade at Kindred. Son Brian is a major in the North Dakota National Guard and the state occupational health nurse at Bismarck. Daughter Trisha Martin teaches English in a Bismarck middle school. Daughter Jennifer Clark teaches physics and biology at New Ulm Cathedral High School, Minn.

The couple also has eight grandchildren.

Keller admits hell miss his Trinity family.

I dont have as much energy as I used to. Its going to be fun to step aside and watch. Ill be glad to provide advice. Im still probably their number one Titan fan, he said.

Meanwhile, Keller already has started working at his summer job with the Dickinson Parks and Recreations softball program.

Trinity Superintendent Mike Kiedrowski described Keller as a very enthusiastic individual.

You can tell that he loves kids and he loves what he does. I think he has fun with the kids and hes an outstanding educator because the kids just like him, he said.

He also described Keller as being a very effective teacher, one who has the gift of getting in front of your desk even while hes still behind the podium.

He always seems to know when to lighten up the atmosphere so that its not so tense. He has a gift of breaking the tension in the air, whether its in a meeting or in a discussion in the hallway. When he speaks, the kids know that its business, he said.

Kiedrowski said Keller has a love of athletics.

His enthusiasm for athletics spills over into his job as athletic director. One of the reasons weve had success in our athletic programs is because of Ken Keller, he said.

Kiedrowski said Trinity High School will not be the same without Keller. Hes the one who told the funny stories in the teachers lounge every morning.

Whos going to do that next year? We will certainly miss him and the enthusiasm and excitement he brings to work, he said.

A public retirement party for Keller is at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 30, in the Trinity High School cafeteria.