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Deer River teacher retires after 50 years with district

Linda Sirvio works with a second grade student at King Elementary in Deer River on May 22, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
Linda Sirvio works with a second grade student at King Elementary in Deer River on May 22, 2024.

Linda Sirvio retired as a reading and math interventionist but spent most of her career teaching second grade. She's spent nearly her entire life in the town she loves.

DEER RIVER — Linda Sirvio wanted to be a teacher since she was in second grade.

While playing outside at school, she slipped and ended up covered in mud from head to toe.

“My teacher took me into the bathroom, rinsed out my dress, hung it up to dry, and gave me her Pendleton wool jacket to wear until my dress dried,” Sirvio said. “That did it. I’m going to be a teacher — I'm going to be a second grade teacher.”

Sirvio attended two years of college in Grand Rapids and two in Bemidji before returning to her hometown of Deer River. She spent time in other roles and district elementaries, but most of her career was spent teaching second grade at King Elementary School.

Last Thursday was Sirvio’s 50th — and final — last day of school. She retired as a reading and math interventionist working with second through fifth grade students.

Her favorite student memories include the look on kids’ faces when something finally clicks. Or when they show that they know she cares.

“I had lunch today with three fourth graders, I think it was,” Sirvio said during an interview in May. “They said, ‘Can we eat lunch with you?’ ‘Yeah, sure.’ I said, ‘I have four extra chairs; I can eat lunch with four people.’ I haven’t had to pull an extra chair over, but I would if I had to.”

Linda Sirvio works with a second grade student at King Elementary in Deer River on May 22, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
Linda Sirvio works with a second grade student at King Elementary in Deer River on May 22, 2024.

For most educators, lunch is one of their few breaks from students. So, why’d she say yes?

“Because they asked,” Sirvio said matter-of-factly. “Because they wanted to come share their time with me.”

Annee Verbeck-Seeley, one of the intervention educators who shared a classroom with Sirvio, said generosity is just part of who Sirvio is.

“She’s just very caring and very loyal, too. Loyal to us, but loyal to this building, loyal to this district, and she gives her all every day,” Verbeck-Seeley said. “I mean, she’s here before any of us, every day.”

In all the years they’ve worked together, Verbeck-Seeley said she’s never heard Sirvio be negative about anything, even though she’s endured personal tragedies like the death of two children and her parents.

“There’d be a lot to really make it difficult to come to work and a lot to complain about, but she doesn’t,” she said. “I’ve never heard her complain once. And that’s 10 years' worth.”

It’d be a challenge to get Sirvio to describe herself that way. She said she doesn’t like talking about herself much at all. When first asked for an interview, she said, “It is not something I feel comfortable doing, but I am willing to try.”

When the interview began, she presented a copy of the letter she read to the Deer River School Board during contract negotiations and said most of what she thought needed to be said about her was in the letter.

“It wasn’t until I became a teacher myself that I truly understood just how much love teachers have for their students,” the letter read. “It is a love you cannot explain to those who are not teachers.”

Interventionist Annee Verbeck-Seeley shows off one of her many crochet gifts from Linda Sirvio at King Elementary in Deer River on May 22, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
Interventionist Annee Verbeck-Seeley shows off one of her many crochet gifts from Linda Sirvio at King Elementary in Deer River on May 22, 2024.

While hesitant to talk about herself, Sirvio’s praise for her colleagues came quickly and naturally. Even her hobbies are closely tied to her fellow teachers. She’s a fervent knitter and crocheter, gifting her crafts for every possible occasion: birthdays, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and more.

“That’s one thing I’m going to miss. Because I come up with a neat pattern I want to try, and I make it for all the members on my intervention team,” Sirvio said. “So, I come the next day and say, ‘Here, I made this for you or this for you or this for you.’”

When asked about her favorite memory from her career, she told the story of what happened when she’d first left the classroom to be an interventionist but was asked to teach again after a few years.

“I had given away everything I had that was teaching [related] when I left the classroom,” she began. “But the gal that took my place was a good friend of mine, and she said, ‘Ah, don’t worry Linda. You know where everything is in this room. When you need something, you come in and get it.’

“I mean, how can you not work with something like that or in a situation like that? Because accepting, loving, no matter what mistakes you made — they were there for you.”

That support extended outside of work, too. Sirvio said her coworkers were always there for her when a loved one died, and one even drove her to the hospital to see her father before his death.

“Just did things like that for you, no questions asked,” she said of them.

That’s what Sirvio said she’ll miss the most in retirement.

“I love the people I work with. It’s going to be hard to leave the people,” she said. “But then again, I’m not going completely. I’ll still be back subbing.”

Sirvio’s husband is a substitute as well, usually subbing about 103 of 180 school days. She expects to work a comparable amount, partially so she can continue to stay connected to her coworkers — and gift crochet creations, which she plans to leave for the absent teacher when she substitutes.

“I just don’t have the classroom responsibilities,” she said. “I can come in, do my job, and when the phone rings at quarter to 6 in the morning or quarter after 6, I can say, ‘Nope! Not coming in today.’”

Sirvio put it best in the letter she read to the School Board.

“To say I am dedicated to teaching, to Deer River, and to teaching Deer River students is an understatement by any imagination of the word.”

Megan Buffington joined the KAXE newsroom in 2024 after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Pequot Lakes, she is passionate about educating and empowering communities through local reporting.