For more than four decades, Paula Loegering has been an educator. Starting out in the elementary field, she then worked her way up to adult education — a place she said she found her true niche.

Loegering, who teaches GED and English language students at the Dickinson Adult Learning Center (DALC), was honored as Educator of the Year from the North Dakota Association (NDALL) for Lifelong Learning on Sept. 23, during the NDALL’s virtual fall conference. For nearly 25 years, Loegering has been teaching students at the DALC.

Not only has Loegering made an impact on students but she also has contributed significantly to the field of education by being an advocate for her students and maintaining conversations with local representatives and elected officials, Region 8 Director Beth Hurt said. Loegering goes above and beyond, “acting as a positive promoter for adult education in North Dakota,” Hurt noted.

“We are so grateful to work with Paula and see the amazing impact she has on students and other educators in Dickinson,” Hurt said. “She is a superb example of what dedication and true passion can contribute to the field of education.”

Though the award came as a surprise, Loegering was grateful to mark this one on her career board.

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“Well, it’s a high point toward the end of my teaching career. Not that I’m done-done, but I’ve been in it (for) 45 or more years,” she said. “So (I’m) winding down toward the end. (This is) a nice way to get to this point… being in the educational field. It feels good to be recognized.”

The first 19 years of her teaching career was spent in mid-elementary grades, where she taught in Montana. Upon arriving with her husband to Dickinson, N.D., there was no shortage of educators in local elementary schools. So Loegering decided to try something new.

“I just sort of filtered into whatever I could find and adult ed was more available. And so, I just stayed with the adult education side of it and moved through some different experiences in adult education and never returned to the elementary classroom,” Loegering said.

Though she enjoyed her years teaching young children, for more than two decades Loegering has been able to unearth her true calling in life.

“I think I like the variety that it entails. There’s new challenges and the people and all their situations are different. So you have new challenges all the time with everybody and what they bring to the table,” she said.

One student at the DALC remarked how since enrolling in one of Loegering’s classes, she’s been given a second chance.

“She has been nothing but wonderful and gave me back my feeling of self-worth. No test can measure my gratitude,” Erin said.

The Educator of the Year Award is awarded based on an individual’s contributions that are significant to the education field, professionalism and continuous upgrade of educational skills.

“(Loegering) always is willing to learn new methods and ideas and very willing to upgrade her skills using new technology. She understands the individual needs of her students and helps foster their self-esteem through encouragement,” Hurt said.

For the lifelong teacher, this award also credits fellow adult learning educators.

“It was certainly unexpected, but it’s been very nice too at this point in my career to have some recognition because (sometimes) adult ed seems to not be right out there. A lot of people don’t even know too much about it. So it sheds some light (on) our adult education program. I think that’s probably one of the nicest parts of this is people start to realize now there is something else beyond K through 12,” Loegering noted.

For younger teachers just starting out in the education field, Loegering emphasized the importance of staying healthy and maintaining a high energy level.

“The thing is to always have a sense of humor, and to not be overly serious about whether it’s your own mistakes or other people’s mistakes,” she said, adding, “I think you have to take everything in stride and not get overly hung up on things. It’s a learning curve like everything.”