Louise Gaustad says she can hardly believe it herself, but she is retiring after teaching for 35 years.
Gaustad says she's taught physical education at six of the nine local elementary school buildings, including the three that are no longer used as K-5 schools: Hallinan, Lake Grove, Oak Creek, Palisades, Uplands and Westridge.
Her last day in the Lake Oswego School District will be June 30, but there's still a chance to say goodbye. Gaustad will be the guest of honor at a farewell ice cream social from 3:30-5 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, at Westridge Elementary School, 3400 Royce Way.
Although she's roamed between schools — and even taught at three at once during lean years in the district — Gaustad has been a fixture at Westridge for the past two years, and she says it's much easier to focus on just one school. But no matter where she's taught, she's still made the most of it with innovative programs for kids ever since she graduated from college and tried her hand at teaching. She raised thousands of dollars for medical research, for example, and been honored with state-level awards in two states during her career.
Gaustad graduated with a degree in P.E. and a minor in coaching from University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., not far from where she grew up as the youngest of eight children in Grafton. She'd planned to teach secondary school, but she says there was something about the little ones.
"They come in and they're so excited to be there," says Gaustad, a Tualatin resident. "You can't beat that."
She took a job for 6½ years as an elementary P.E. teacher at a K-6 school in North Dakota, where in 1988 she received the Elementary Physical Education Teacher Award from the North Dakota Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. She says she thinks she earned the honor because of her traveling jump rope demonstration team that showcased its moves at conferences throughout the United States. The group event competed in Canada.
A little over two decades later, she received the 2009 Oregon Elementary P.E. Teacher of the Year award from SHAPE America. She says that may be because of some of the innovative programs she was allowed to launch while in the LOSD.
"Teaching elementary physical education gets you to be creative, and you get to touch on a lot of different subjects," Gaustad says.
One program she remembers fondly was Shuffle to Buffalo. She was at Oak Creek Elementary at the time, and she asked Blue Cross Blue Shield to donate pedometers to the school. Then she teamed up with an elementary school in Buffalo, N.Y., and had local students gradually "walk" to Buffalo while the New Yorkers "walked" toward them, counting their steps with the pedometers. The children learned about hydration and nutrition and got fit at the same time.
When the groups of students from each school "reached each other," they held school-wide assemblies and met each other over Skype. And in Buffalo, Gaustad's son Paul treated the school with a visit. He's now retired, but at the time, he played hockey for the Buffalo Sabres, a professional and popular ice hockey team.
Louise Gaustad also created Scooter Town USA, a program in which she would convert
a school into a city. She had students visit different areas on scooters, getting change
at the bank, rolling over to work and even recreating at parks.
"I always try to encourage the kids to go to parks and a lake where they can fish," Gaustad says.
And then there were the Jump Rope for Heart events. In her days as a P.E. teacher, Gaustad's managed to raise $50,000-$60,000 for the American Heart Association with these fundraisers. AHA honored her recently for her contributions. She also is known for getting schools involved in a Guinness World Record competition, in which students participate in an effort to break the record for the most people stacking
cups in one day. The kids work up a sweat speed-stacking too.
Gaustad also started an elementary volleyball program while she was at Oak Creek, although she disbanded the program after local volleyball clubs launched. She even found time to coach at various schools throughout the years and has been coaching volleyball at Lakeridge Junior High most recently.
After so many years of working with kids, Gaustad says she isn't going to be
stepping away from educa-
tion after retirement. She plans to substitute teach next year.
"I'm not going to set my alarm clock very much," she says.
She'll also be spending time with husband John and her four grown children. Local folks, including Lake Oswego Junior High Principal Sara Deboy, say the loss will be felt when Gaustad leaves.
Deboy, who served as principal at Hallinan and Lake Grove, recalls working with Gaustad and says she is a "treasure," who is "positive, connected and in it for the kids."
"I will miss her enthusiasm and willingness to take on any and all challenges that would benefit our students," Deboy says.