James Glasser didn't grow up dreaming to be a science teacher. But his teachers at Mott High School in the late 1950s encouraged him to go to college, so he headed off to Dickinson State Teachers College after graduating in 1960.
On Thursday, Glasser's colleagues, current and former students, his mom and dad, and North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler celebrated his 50th year of teaching with a plaque, well wishes and reminiscing.
"It was an accident," Glasser said. "My teachers wanted me to go to college and I went to Dickinson, and they turned out teachers."
Glasser started teaching in Rhame in the fall of 1964 after he graduated from Dickinson State. He taught there for five years, followed by 14 years in Regent and 17 years in Washburn. After that, he retired to his hometown.
"The science teacher here died of cancer. They couldn't replace him," Glasser said. "I had just retired so they asked me."
Glasser has spent the past 14 years at Mott-Regent in a part-time role, teaching two classes in the morning before heading home.
Glasser's mother, Jeanette Glaser, was a teacher for two years before she had children. Glasser's brother, Dave, took over the farm from their father, Dan, and Glasser followed in his mother's footsteps.
"He always was kind of interested in it and he didn't like farming, so that was his major thing then, I guess," Jeanette said.
In his 50 years of teaching, Glasser has seen many changes. Copies were made with mimeograph machines long before Xerox made the copy machine affordable for businesses and school. He remembers when students learned to type on typewriters, not computers, and he made the transition from paper memos to email.
Glasser said he embraced all of those changes. He even brought a computer into the classroom in Regent in the 1970s.
"Glasser would spend time in the morning, at noon, after school, during his free period -- whatever time he had -- helping students to learn something about computers because he could see ... what was going to happen down the road," said Darrel Remington, who was superintendent at Regent High School at the same time as Glasser taught there.
Glasser's teaching style made the students want to learn, said Mott-Regent school board President Bill Gion, one of his former students.
"I never found it difficult to pay attention in his class because he always had the ability to flip that switch -- that switch that would take you from daydreaming to being engaged," Gion said.
When Gion was in school, the Regent boys would gather in the park to play football on Sunday afternoons. After catching one of these impromptu games, Glasser used football to explain the properties of center of gravity, which Gion said allowed him to run right past a taller, bigger boy during a game.
Glasser isn't the first teacher to hit 50 years in North Dakota, said Annette Tait a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Instruction.
DPI doesn't keep track of that type of historical data, but she said it is rare for a teacher to hit 50 years.
"We definitely feel that even though he is not alone in attaining the 50-year milestone in the classroom that he is very deserving of recognition for doing so," Tait said.
Through four schools and 50 years, Glasser has touched the lives of countless students, Baesler said.
"I'm sure that his students have accomplished much since they left his classroom," Baesler said.
Glasser never married and never had children of his own, but considers the countless number of students his children.
"It's really nice to see young people go out and become part of the community, to be a community leader," Glasser said.
There is one key element that has brought success to his teaching career, and to any teacher's career.
"You had better like kids," Glasser said. "And you don't go into it for the money."