The North Bend Eagle


Fewer scheduling problems ahead for retired Dodge

by Nathan Arneal
Published 5/30/12

After 33 years of opening lockers, fixing schedules, running “quick pitch right” and winning state basketball championships, NBC guidance counselor Jim Dodge has called it a career.

“I decided when I hit that third generation of students it was time to get out,” he said.

Jim Dodge's last graduationJim Dodge helps Michaela Pietzmeier and her classmates earlier this month during his last NBC graduation as senior class sponsor.

Those family connections go back to his first teaching job after graduating from North Bend High School in 1964 and attending Wayne State. He accepted his first job offer and signed on at Snyder High School in 1968.

There he taught P.E., coached football, basketball and track and served as the athletic director, all for $6,000 a year. Some of his students from those early Snyder years now have grandchildren attending NBC.

After three years, Dodge and his wife Sue moved to a higher paying job at Fort Calhoun. Making the move with them was their trusty trailer home, which housed them for five of his first six years as a teacher.

“We lived in a trailer house that was 10x52 (feet),” Dodge said, “and I think the 52 included the hitch, because it wasn’t very big.”

In that era, discipline was handed a little differently, and corporal punishment was still common. As a P.E. teacher, he was often called on to serve as a witness when the principal spanked a student.

A career that almost wasn’t

Dodge’s career in education nearly ended in 1974, when he decided to leave teaching and work in the well businesses with his family.

“It seemed like the thing to do,” Dodge said. “Teaching wasn’t paying a whole lot of money. I took out my teacher retirement money, which was a whopping $1,800 after six years, and invested that as the down payment in the house we still live in. So that was a good deal.”

He and his wife and two kids moved back to his hometown of North Bend. The well business went great for a few years, but then slowed after a couple of wet summers. Soon Dodge was taking on extra jobs, including substitute teaching at NBC. During the winter of 1978 he was working the night shift on the loading docks of Valmont when he began rethinking his career path.

“Out on the loading dock in the middle of winter, that was not fun,” Dodge said. “Then I decided I had to get back into teaching.”

It just so happened that a social studies job opened up at NBC that year. Dodge expressed interest in the position, and since he was well know at the school from his substitute work, he was offered the job without an interview.

He began his career at North Bend Central during the 1979-80 school year. He taught social studies, coached junior high football and served as assistant wresting and girls track coach. During the summers he taught drivers education in Schuyler.

After a couple of years, the NBC guidance counselor, Gary O’Daniels, stepped down. Dodge, who had taken some classes toward his counseling certificate while teaching at Fort Calhoun, volunteered himself for the job.

He was granted a provisional counseling certificate, meaning he would have to finish his course work through summer and night classes over the next few years, and began serving as NBC’s guidance counselor in 1981. He would hold the position for the next 31 years.

During those three decades, the job has stayed the same as much as it has changed. As fulfilling as it is to help students work toward college choices and scholarships, it is just as discouraging when you have to prod students to stay off the downlist.

The paperwork has increased as well, as standardized testing and tracking performance statistics have become a large part of the job.

Dodge said the students haven’t changed much over the years, but the parents have.

“When I started teaching, if a kid did something wrong in school, he went home and got it again, because the school was right,” he said. “Now it’s more if the kid gets in trouble, the school is wrong for disciplining him. Everybody wants to sue and everybody is worried about the school doing something wrong to their kid. There’s too much emphasis on their self-esteem sometimes when they need to be more responsible and the parents don’t hold them responsible enough.”

Coach Dodge

In 1959, Vertis Baucke was the junior high football coach in North Bend. His enthusiasm for sports rubbed off on eighth grader Jim Dodge.

“He was young and energetic and I said I wanted to be just like that,” Dodge recalled.

His first coaching job came in a sport he had never seen. In his first game, he led Snyder’s 8-man football team against mighty Cedar Bluffs, who had gone undefeated the year before.

Half of Snyder’s team was freshman, including one named Jim Minarick. That night the Warriors knocked off Cedar Bluffs, giving Dodge his first career win, something he still points to as a coaching highlight.

“Just the feeling of that is something you never lose,” Dodge said.

At NBC, he went on to coach the junior high football teams every year except for one. His junior high football teams combined for a record of 104-43 (that includes his one year of JV football). He also spent most of his time coaching junior high track and basketball at various levels.

Perhaps what he will be most remember for is guiding the varsity girls basketball team during its golden age, leading the Tigers to three state title games and two state championships between 1998 and 2001. It is an era Dodge remembers fondly.

“It’s neat because it’s something that not everyone gets to accomplish and you do it together,” he said. “It’s a group thing. When I see those girls we always talk about how fun it was. We always remember and always will remember.”

Even during the best of times, there are low points. Sometimes it is the near misses that stick in your mind more than the victories, especially in the years before state wildcards.

“The disappointment was that we had a couple of teams in between (championships) that probably should have gotten that same feeling. They were as good as anybody around, and maybe I didn’t go a very good job of coaching, but for one reason or another didn’t make it.

“When you see an Arlington team that you beat at their place by 25 points three weeks earlier win the state championship, that’s tough. That was one that was hard to swallow. I felt really bad for the girls because they had worked hard enough to at least have the opportunity to play at state, but we didn’t get that.”

Overall, Dodge compiled a 202-45 record in his 11 years as head girls coach at NBC.

His coaching career won’t end with his retirement, though. He will still coach junior high girls basketball, and he and former NBC defensive coordinator Bill Leftwich have agreed to become the most experienced staff in the EVW youth football league, leading North Bend’s fifth and sixth graders.

No set plans

Dodge will still do some house painting jobs with his summer crew, though he has declared those jobs will be done close to the ground.

“(Last paint job) we were on 40-foot ladders, and I told them I am never doing this again,” Dodge said. “If we go up this high, we’re not going to heal if we fall from up here.”

He also has the option of substitute teaching and driving the bus to activities, but other than that, his retirement plans are pretty open.

One thing is for sure, he and Sue plan on spending more time with their nine grandchildren, which are spread through Minnesota, Nebraska and Missouri.
When reflecting on his years at North Bend Central, he recalls a lesson he tried to instill in his eighth-grade career education students:

“The people you work with are going to have as much of an effect as anything on whether you’re happy and enjoy what you’re doing,” Dodge said. “I’ve been lucky enough through 39 years of teaching to be with people who were not only good teachers, but good people and fun to be around.

“That made the years go fast and very enjoyable.”

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