Edwards is new principal at St. Casimir’s in Wells
Her love of children and teaching has been a guide in her career
COVID-19 may require St. Casimir’s principal, Diane Edwards, to wear a mask almost all of the time while she is at the school. But, even the face covering cannot hide the smile which reaches her eyes when she talks about the young children she helps educate at the private school in Wells.
“I have always loved kids,” Edwards says. “From the time I was nine years old I knew I was going to be a teacher or a day care provider.”
She graduated from Lester Prairie High School, received her undergraduate degree from St. Cloud University and her master’s degree from St. Mary’s college in Minneapolis. She did not venture far from home for her first teaching job, which was in the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District and only about a 20-minute drive from Lester Prairie.
“I spent my first 24 years in education at Glencoe-Silver Lake,” Edwards shares. “I was a teacher, a curriculum director, a data specialist and a principal.”
She moved to Albert Lea in 2015 and was the principal at Sibley Elementary for four and a half years until resigning in April of this year. She remarried in June of 2019 and her husband, Doug, is a chiropractor who owns Albert Lea Chiropractic Acupuncture and Massage. Between the two of them they have five children, four grandchildren with another grandchild on the way.
“COVID came and I began tutoring two of my grandchildren for a six-week period this spring,” Edwards comments. “Their parents live in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and would come up every weekend to see them.”
She says it was an experience she will always cherish.
“The kids were six and eight years old and were finishing their kindergarten and second grade years in school,” Edwards explains.
“The kitchen in my house became a full-blown classroom which eventually also moved into the dining room.”
She was not hired to be the principal at St. Casimir’s until Sept. 1, after the previous principal resigned right before the start of the current school year.
“My goal had been to stay home and tutor students,” Edwards remarks. “I already had 20 kids lined up to tutor when I learned about the job at St. Casimir from a mother of one of the students I was tutoring.”
Her job at St. Casimir’s is her first outside of the public school setting.
“Public schools have different regulations than private schools,” she notes. “We can have religion in private schools, we can pray. We say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, which the kids also did when I taught in Glencoe. We can also sing God Bless America.”
She wears many hats in her new job.
“I teach, I am the principal and the head of Human Resources at the school,” Edwards says. “I am thankful for the background and experience I received at Glencoe-Silver Lake.”
The current enrollment at the school is 26 students in grades K-6.
“Our enrollment is down from last year because many parents were worried about our technology capabilities if we would have to go to distance learning,” Edwards explains. “One of the first things we have done this school year is to catch up on the technology side of things. We were able to do this with grant money the school received.”
She believes the enrollment numbers will improve.
“There is a trend towards children attending private schools or home schooling,” Edwards mentions. “While we still have the challenge of dealing with COVID-19 guidelines, it is easier to manage with a smaller population. So far we have not had any coronavirus cases in the school.”
The kids deal with these issues better than adults much of the time, according to Edwards.
“I was so proud of the kids when they came back to school,” she says. “It was like they had not missed a beat and were so happy to be back in school.”
It is, after all, about the students, according to Edwards.
“We need to figure out how to make a success out of the situation we are in and quit looking for ways to make things fail,” Edwards states. “We do that by having a child-centered philosophy – we are here for the kids.”
She says part of her job is to help find those solutions.
“One of the ways we are accomplishing our goals is through our wonderful volunteers who have stepped up to help us out at the school,” Edwards comments.
Although the school is associated with St. Casimir’s Catholic Church in Wells, Edwards says children of all faiths are welcome.
This energetic principal does not slow down and while working to make the school better and increase enrollment, she still finds time to get away from the school and spend time with her family.
“We are adventurers. My husband is a rock climber. We like to go four-wheeling and we love to ride our bikes around the lakes in Albert Lea,” Edwards shares. “I love to garden and I love animals. We have three dogs and a cat.”
Edwards love of children and the joy she experiences in teaching them can be seen by the fact she is still tutoring seven students in addition to performing her duties at St. Casimir’s.
She even had one unusual tutoring request, which turned out to be one of her favorites.
“I had one mom ask me to teach her son how to cook,” she says. “It was a blast, I just loved it.”