By Ned Leebrick-Stryker
After 32 years of teaching and 30 years in one building, Murray Middle School math teacher Mike Laska has retired.
“I have been teaching since 1985,” Laska said. “Between my wife and I and our financial planners, I realized I could [retire] now.”
After receiving a degree in math education from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, Laska began teaching at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights. Two years later, he moved to St. Paul Public Schools, taking a job at Murray in 1987. But, according to Laska, education was not the career path that he had originally planned on.
“My wife steered me into [teaching],” Laska said. “Prior to that, I was looking at an engineering degree.”
But it was an encounter with a young student that convinced him to become a teacher, he said.
“My wife was an elementary education major and student teaching at the time. She needed help teaching a kid in her math class,” Laska said. “After a couple of times and seeing that the kid was actually making some progress and was happy about having me there, I thought, ‘Oh, this is kind of neat.’ ”
His long tenure at Murray allowed him to get to know many families there. “Because of the length of time in one building, you’re working not just with one kid, but you’re working with the brothers and sisters of that kid,” Laska said. “I’m at a point where I was actually teaching children of students, which is a second generation of kids, so that’s kind of bizarre and kind of neat.”
Now that he’s retired, Laska plans to spend a lot of time bicycling and teaching cycling classes.
Ned Leebrick-Stryker is a student in the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication.