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Long-time educator retires after 36 years

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

After a career in education spanning 36 years, Century School principal Bruce Gravalin announced plans to retire at Monday night's school board meeting.

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"I've done it all," Gravalin said of his work with students from kindergarten through senior high. "It's been a good ride."

Gravalin entered the classroom in Moorhead as a physical education, science and health teacher, instructing from 1975-78.

He worked as a guidance counselor at Park Rapids Area High School from 1978-84 and Moorhead High School's director of guidance from 1984-87. He served as assistant principal in Bemidji for a year and was hired by the Park Rapids School District, where the family owned property, in 1988 as senior high assistant principal.

He was named Park Rapids Middle School principal in 1993, elementary administration added to his role two years ago.

He also coached football, wrestling and track, that facet of his career spanning 20 years.

"It's a rare mix," he said of the roles he's assumed.

His age group preference: Middle school. "They are the toughest. It's a strange mix of child and adult," he said, "a precious commodity."

Middle schoolers, he observed, "are a range of the strange, from small people who haven't developed to six footers.

"They are brutally honest," he said. "One does not fool them. If you're phony, they know it. You have to treat them with dignity and respect - or you'll have a problem with the relationship. And relationship is everything with this age group."

Teachers working with fifth through eighth graders "have to be flexible, part child, part adult and enjoy people," Gravalin said.

"The change from 8th grade to junior in high school is incredible," he said. "I see them go from child to young adulthood."

As an administrator, he admits missing the classroom. "If I'd had the opportunity, I'd gone back. But I'm happy and satisfied.

"There has not been one day I've not felt good about going to work. I'm leaving an occupation I feel good about. I have no regrets. That's a good feeling...

"I'm most proud about the building we're sitting in," he said of the Century School referendum meeting voter approval, students arriving for their education in a state-of-the-art facility.

Gravalin recalls the celebratory day after the ballots were counted, when the students presented a monstrous "thank you" banner to electorate.

When he retires in June, plans call for spending time with his six grandchildren, hunting, fishing, woodworking and "enjoying life with Karen," his wife.

The couple has four daughters, all Park Rapids graduates "who received a wonderful education," an educator, lawyer and two nurses.

"Park Rapids is a great place to live," he said. "We'll stay."

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