KASSON — As the graduating class from Kasson-Mantorville Senior High school bid adieu to their classmates and the hallways they've called home during the last four years, another Komet is also saying his goodbyes.
After 17 years of serving as the high school's principal, Jerry Reker is retiring from his position. For 40 years, Reker has worked as an educator and administrator, with the class of 2015 being his last.
"I have three children and a wife," Reker said. "I've missed a lot of stuff during their life because I was at school. They've been extremely supportive and I thank them so much."
After earning his undergraduate degree at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Reker's first teaching position was at Logan-Magnolia High School in Logan, Iowa, in 1975 and he taught for seven years. He then earned his principal certification from Mankato State University and first became a principal at Grand Meadow High School in 1982. He even served as superintendent for a year and coached high school football and wrestling. From there, Reker served as principal for Wabasha-Kellogg High School for five years.
"I wanted to give back," he said. "I wanted to teach and coach kids. I really enjoyed teaching and being around young people. They motivate us to stay on our toes."
After accepting the principal position at Kasson-Mantorville in 1998, Reker grew alongside the class of 2015. For him, he witnessed students enter school and become adults after graduation. He said that while the students received folders during the ceremony, the students came down to his office where Reker signed their diplomas personally.
"You really get personally connected to kids and build relationships with them," he said. "Graduation is a time to celebrate. It is really quite the accomplishment. It was kind of special to see them grow up."
During his time as an educator and an administrator, Reker said he dealt with crises, such as students dying, or handling students' family conflicts.
"I think there's challenges with any position. Those situations really affect not just the students, but staff and administrators as well because you got to know the kids," he said.
Trent Langemo, who is the current principal at Pine River-Backus High School in Pine River, will assume Reker's position in July.
"We met last Monday," Reker said. "I think he'll be a really good fit for the community. He's a very nice gentleman."
Langemo didn't return calls seeking comment by press time.
To some students, Reker played an important part of their high school years. For 2015 graduate Luke Buehler, the school's newspaper the Kometeer was given the go-ahead from Reker to start again as well as approving Buehlr's idea that school announcements should be read over the intercom rather than just being read from advisory teachers.
"I'm thankful for the fact that he approved such a seemingly simple thing," Buehler said,"but it's something that meant quite a lot to me at the time. ..he ran a tight ship, and everything ran like clockwork in that school."
Regarding what's next for Reker, he said he still wants to be involved with Kasson-Mantorville while the high school is undergoing its construction project and help Langemo transition into the job.
Reker said he will cherish his time as an educator.
"Day-to-day interaction with students and staff ... there's something different every day," he said. "It's not a job where you sit at a desk. I've been very fortunate to be here at Kasson-Mantorville."