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Hutchinson's Barb Haugen saw many sides to education

Whether it’s in the classroom, around the city or on the rink, Barb Haugen has been part of education in Hutchinson since 1980.

As she begins her retirement following the end of another year teaching English at New Century Academy, she reflected on the hats she wore during the past 39 years. Many likely know her from her 16 years at the charter public school, but others may recognize Haugen’s name from her 22 years with Hutchinson Parks, Recreation and Community Education.

The variety in her career stems back to her time in college. While pursuing a future in education, she worked to pay the bills by setting up volleyball nets, lifeguarding and instructing swimming.

“My supervisor then wasn’t much older than me. I was and asked if I’d consider a career in public recreation because there weren’t many women,” Haugen said.

She loved the work and agreed to make the switch. When she moved to Hutchinson with her husband, Marv, they weren’t sure they would both find a job in public recreation. He went to work at the skating rink and she started work as a paraprofessional for Hutchinson Public Schools.

“I loved it,” Haugen said. “It reminded me I did want to do this (education).”

She continued helping Hutchinson Parks, Recreation and Community Education where she was needed. Her background in competitive skating led to a position as an instructor for the figure skating program. Eventually, her work with PRCE grew into a full-time position.

“I always thought I knew everyone under 18 and over 60,” Haugen said. “Those were my clients. It was a career that was very good to me. I met a lot of fun people.”

While she enjoyed her PRCE job, something kept calling her back to education. It came to a head when she heard a radio interview with students of the year-old New Century Academy.

“They talked about their field trips. They were so excited and it was so refreshing,” Haugen said. “I didn’t waste too many days. I walked over and asked if they had any positions open, and there I was.”

She started as a paraprofessional as she returned to school for her teaching license. Ultimately, she earned her master’s degree in education. As an English teacher, she covered reading, writing and speaking.

When Haugen was first at NCA, the school operated out of the learning center at HTI’s campus on Hutchinson’s northeast side.

“It was a beautiful space,” she said, “with nice classrooms.”

Haugen was part of the School Board when NCA moved to Fifth Avenue and shared a newly constructed building with New Discoveries Montessori Academy in 2008. Each school had a wing and shared common spaces such as offices and a gym.

Then three years ago she was invited by school director Jason Becker to walk through the former Word of Life Church.

“He (is) our fourth director, and he and I have been there the longest,” Haugen said. “He wanted to know what I thought.”

Plans were in the works to move NCA to the building, an idea that came to fruition before the 2017-18 school year.

“I thought, ‘This will be an exciting space for education to take place,’” Haugen said. “A year later we are in there, starting the Back to School Night. We didn’t have interior doors and windows yet but I told them, ‘This is going to be our greatest year ever,’ and it was a great year.”

She believes the extra space serves NCA’s project-based learning approach.

“There is room to grow and experiment,” she said. “We are a project-based school. That is our MO. It had been stifled by space and former directors who maybe didn’t see the opportunity there as being manageable. Here we have the space where students can go and create and build. We’re messy. Project-based learning isn’t quiet. It’s not neat and tidy.”

Love for New Century

During the past 16 years, Haugen has taught roughly 2,100 students. They’re what she will miss the most.

“They make me laugh. They make me wonder,” she said. “They frustrate me, but they are so rejuvenating.”

She’s proud of how accepting the students are of each other. Kids may start unhappy about sitting next to each other, but that changes.

“You go drive by our school and at the end of the day you see all kinds of characters tumble out,” Haugen said. “But they have one thing in common, which is that by November they understand each other. Their patience and understanding is quite remarkable. There is little or no bullying.”

She fondly remembers all the times students brought her their college acceptance letters or showed her their college testing scores.

“I have texts saved in my phone from 2009 with ACT scores,” Haugen said. “I see many former students regularly for a cup of coffee.”

Because NCA is a small, intimate school, Haugen knows it stands out when students have issues. But she knows the students to be a diverse group.

“These are kids who are going to be fine in any school, but they come to New Century,” she said. “They might have been a back-row student, but they are discovered at New Century. They become front-row students. Whether they are an artist or mathematician, they are discovered and they can flourish.”


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Hutchinson's Little Crow Archery Park has a new look

If you’ve ever driven into Hutchinson’s west side along State Highway 7 and gazed down at Odd Fellow’s Park, you may have wondered, “What’s the deal with those large hay targets?”

They’re gone now, replaced by square wooden structures with pitched roofs designed to hold and shelter modern archery targets. And there may be no better time to check it all out than this weekend when the Little Crow Archery Club hosts the Little Crow Archery Park Grand Opening from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 15, as part of the Water Carnival festivities. Children and adults are welcome to try the sport — and the new targets — with bows provided by the club.

“We’re a family-oriented organization,” said Matt Mackedanz of the Little Crow Archery Club. He was at the park Thursday with a team of volunteers setting up the targets. Work continued over the weekend.

The club had already constructed the target frames at its indoor archery range at the McLeod County Fairgrounds with financial assistance from local clubs and businesses. The former artificial bales didn’t hold up well against Minnesota winters. At times it was hard to retrieve arrows from the bales, while other times they offered no resistance to arrows flying straight through.

“The range has been around a number of years, but it’s been in tough shape,” Mackedanz said. “We figured it was time to update the range and give the community a better place to shoot.”

The indoor range is for club members, but they know there are many bow hunters in the area who do not want to join a club, and others looking to dip their feet in before making any commitment.

“This is open to the public,” Mackedanz said of the park.

When the club decided to move forward with the project, it contacted the city with a plan. Following approval, members went to Simonson Lumber for help drafting a final design and parts list.

The club will have 12 bows available this Saturday, and like the park the event is free.

“Anyone is more than welcome to come down and give it a roll,” Mackedanz said.

Robert Piehl, club president, said he finds the sport “relaxing, fun and a little challenging.” He likes to help teach about archery and safety by instructing with the 4-H shooting sports program. The club helps foster the sport among area youth by volunteering to help Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts earn their archery badges.

Mackedanz, who enjoys the competitive side of archery, started in high school. The sport also provides family time for him.

“I spend time with both of my boys,” he said. “One is off to college, but it’s something he and I can share.”


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Rep. Collin Peterson spoke about upcoming farm programs and complications

Hutchinson’s Dairy Day drew quite a crowd to Library Square Friday to celebrate a cornerstone of Minnesotan agriculture.

While visitors lined up for milk and ice cream, or to see the dairy cows soon to be milked as part of a competition, one guest — U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson — chatted with locals, area legislators and a reporter over lunch.

Dairy margin coverage

When Peterson visited Litchfield two months ago, he urged dairy farmers to stay in the game in expectation of an upcoming Dairy Margin Coverage Program, which replaced the Dairy Margin Protection Program.

Farmers who enroll receive payments when the income-over-feed-cost margin falls below a selected coverage level, with coverage ranging from $4 per hundredweight to $9.50 per hundredweight.

Farmers can sign up next week and receive coverage retroactive to the first of this year.

Peterson said the program is especially appealing to new farmers.

“If you’re a small dairy farm, this program will guarantee you can stay in business the next five years,” he said. “If a young guy wants to get into dairy farming, this is the best time I’ve seen in my career.”

The margin coverage can be locked in for five years for small farms, and those who enroll for five years can receive a premium discount.

“You can guarantee a gross income for five years,” Peterson said, noting the reliability should be appealing to banks.

That, in addition to lower prices to buy cows, equipment and property, means someone looking to start may have a good chance to get their foot in the door, Peterson said.

Perfect storm

Looking ahead, Peterson said he’s worried about the soybean market.

“It’s going to be really bad, I feel, next year,” he said. “You’ve got a perfect storm.”

With China having killed a major share of its hogs due to swine fever, the home of half the world’s hogs is suddenly importing much less soybeans than in previous years.

“And you add the tariffs on top of it and the weather,” Peterson said.

He said he believes bankers around Hutchinson are still willing to provide financing for now, but further west in the state the problem may be more pronounced.

“I am expecting next winter will be bad,” he said. “Maybe it will be two winters from now. But I expect we are heading for a crisis that will be equivalent to the one we had in the 1980s.”

Though markets haven’t looked friendly for a few years now, farmers have been able to receive financing.

“But when you really have a problem is when the bank says, ‘You’re done,’” Peterson said. “It costs so much to farm now that you can’t do this without outside financing.”

To make matters worse, farmers are planting less because it isn’t profitable. But such a decision may lead to future problems as it appears tariff relief will not count toward unplanted acres.