After 37 years in education, Gaab retires from Trinity

DICKINSON - Anita Gaab's years of service as a teacher at Dickinson's Trinity High School came to end on Wednesday with farewells and high fives from the students in her Grade 9 religion and English classes.

DICKINSON - Anita Gaab's years of service as a teacher at Dickinson's Trinity High School came to end on Wednesday with farewells and high fives from the students in her Grade 9 religion and English classes.

She is retiring after 37 years in education. Her remaining Trinity function is to attend the commencement ceremonies on Sunday.

"The thing I will miss the most about teaching is the pride I feel when the students accomplish a task. I feel great pride when I can tell a nearby spectator the name of a student participating because I know them personally. I will miss that," she said. "These have been my children, in a special way that only a teacher can know her students."

She said the greatest influences in her life were her mother and father, Lillian and George Lisko.

"Mom was a pious woman who showed great courage to her death, as she spent 32 years in a wheelchair. My father showed his unending dignity through it all and was the kindest, most gentle person I have ever known," she said.


Gaab described her father as a man ahead of his time, who believed women must be educated and independent.

"He wasn't a man of means, but always encouraged our family to get an education, even doing whatever little he could for some of my cousins who desired a college education," she said.

Gaab describes herself as a product of the Dickinson school systems -- St. Joseph's Catholic Elementary School, Dickinson High School and Dickinson State University.

"I was born too soon to graduate from Trinity High School because I graduated in 1964 and THS's first graduating class was in 1965," she said.

Her life was influenced by a variety of people along the way -- Msgr. George Aberle and Sisters Norma, Tarsilla and Andrene. She admired her college educators who included Cal Lundberg, Roger Huffman, Dr. Tom Jensen and Neil Ableidinger.

"In my teaching career, I worked with legends like Travis Haakedahl, Steve Brannan and Msgr. Walsh, not to mention all the greats still active in our distinguished Dickinson school systems, public and private," she said.

After graduating from DSU, she began her teaching career at St. Joseph's School in the fall of 1969. She taught part-time math in the sixth and seventh grades during the first year and taught second grade the following year.

The next year, she taught the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who were attending St. Patrick's School at the time. In the fall of 1979, she transitioned to Trinity High School, where the seventh- and eighth-graders were taught.


"Continuing education was the pursuit I was involved in during the summers of those years, as were many of the women in the Dickinson Catholic Schools. We got more continuing education hours than were required by the state," she said.

She later pursued a reading credential and became interested in helping marginal learners.

"I switched my continuing education interests to courses that would help me bring marginal learners to successful students," she said.

Gaab became interested in teaching religion in the high school. She completed a minor in theology and religious education through the University of Mary.

"I accomplished that and now am one course away from a major in that area. At the end of my career, my continuing education ended up being differentiated teaching and classroom assessment, which is just another way of saying individualized assessment," she said.

As a religious education teacher, she focused on the life of Jesus Christ. She connected his life experiences with the students' lives.

She said her students participated in numerous liturgies -- an opportunity for students to develop their speaking abilities in front of a crowd. Her classroom atmosphere could vary from relaxed and the telling of jokes, to serious as they shared life experiences.

As an English teacher, one of the activities was helping coordinate the spelling bees. She served as a coach, judge and spell checker over the years.


She said teaching in the fall was the best time of year.

"They are so full of energy. If you come in tired, they really fill you with energy. They really do keep you young," she said.

Gaab and her husband, James, were married in 1967. He drove semitrailers for much of his life and has worked in the oil fields. He now works part time as a carpenter at Dakota Church Furniture. They have a son, Brad, and a daughter, Amanda.

"I have only one granddaughter, Kyra Petersen, in the first grade at St. Wenceslaus. She is a blooming reader, mathematician and artist," she said.

As an educator, Gaab said, "I have been fortunate in those years to have spent most of my working hours teaching the word of Jesus Christ to an average of 50 students-plus each of those years. I also have taught English, science, math and geography."

Gaab was recently recognized as the Dickinson Catholic Schools Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year for 2008.

Gaab looks to spend more time with her family. She has a keen interest in collecting vintage items at rummage sales and then selling them on E-bay.

"I want to be there when my family needs me. I want to have more opportunities to attend weddings and funerals. I'd like to volunteer and continue teaching religion, but with adults or CCD where I don't have to be there every day," she said.

Reflecting on her years as an educator, she said, "It did go fast."

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