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Retired Hill City elementary teacher reflects on John Latimer’s influence on students

Diana Magner and John Latimer stand side by side in the KAXE studio. John is holding a framed portrait of a blue jay.
Heidi Holtan
Retired Hill City elementary school teacher Diana Magner, a former participant in Phenology in the Classroom, poses with KAXE Staff Phenologist John Latimer in the KAXE studios Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, during KAXE's member drive honoring Latimer for 40 years of the "Phenology" program.

Diana Magner, a retired teacher in Hill City, remembers her time teaching phenology alongside KAXE's staff phenologist over the years.

GRAND RAPIDS — This week we’re celebrating 40 years of Phenology with Staff Phenologist John Latimer on KAXE.

Not only does John share his observations, but we also hear from classrooms throughout the region about what they see outdoors each week.

KAXE keeps you informed of everything happening in your community by telling the stories of northern Minnesota through music, news, conversations and events. Help support that mission by becoming a member today.

Each classroom depends on a dedicated teacher, and over the years, Diana Magner’s students at Hill City School recorded their observations of nature. These reports from Hill City School Forest are an important part of Tuesday mornings. (Since Diana’s retirement, Matt Alleva’s classes have taken up the phenology torch at Hill City School.)

Neither John nor Diana could remember exactly when they started working together or who reached out to who, but there’s obviously a mutual respect between the two of them.

John said of Diana, “You absolutely took to the program. You brought things with you that I have continued to try and encourage other teachers to use in their classrooms.”

They reminisced about when Diana switched from teaching fifth graders to second graders and the first hike they took after that change.

“There were 20 little second graders running around us like a bunch of little squirrels or chipmunks!” Diana said.

As education evolved over the years to include more standardized tests in math and reading, Diana said she always prioritized science.

“To me, science was sacred,” she said. “ ... I would adjust other things so I could still do it. And phenology was the best part of that science.”

Magner now works as a naturalist with students who visit Long Lake Conservation Center near Palisade.

Phenology Coordinator Charlie Mitchell thanked all of the teachers who include phenology in their curriculum.

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