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Long-time South Heart teacher reflects on career

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 12:44 PM CDT
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SOUTH HEART, N.D. – In 1979, Holly Holinka got her first teaching job. The job in South Heart was the only one she applied for when she graduated from Valley City State University.

More than four decades later, that is still true. In fact, the students and staff at South Heart school have become her family.

Holly Holinka never dreamed this was exactly what she wanted.

“We thought we’d be here for three or four years. Well now it’s four decades later,” said Holinka with a laugh.

In her 42 years at South Heart, Mrs. Holinka has taught English and speech; she’s been a yearbook adviser and librarian.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said.

There have been changes; oil booms and busts have affected enrollment and technology has brought new challenges.

“I learned to teach with chalk and a chalkboard and an overhead projector. Now everything is digital,” said Holinka.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“Kids are still kids,” she said.

Those kids will forever be remembered in these school yearbooks. Jay Mann was one of her first students. He graduated from South Heart in 1983 and has been teaching alongside Mrs. Holinka since 1995.

“We visit every morning. I come up to the library and we just catch up on things for about 15 minutes every morning and it’s a good way to start the day,” said Jay Mann, South Heart business teacher.

“I’ve been blessed with families that I’ve taught. I’ve taught them and their children and now I have two first graders who I taught their grandmas, and their moms,” Holinka said.

Holinka had this photo taken in September of 2019 – it includes her former students who are now fellow teachers, as well as the generations of families she’s taught, including Campbell Clarys, her brother, and their dad.

“She had him when he was a teenager,” said Clarys.

“That’s the kind of thing that happens in small schools, and it’s a pretty awesome feeling. I feel really blessed to have been here for 42 years, I know people. I know their families I know just make this connections with people,” said Holinka. “I’m going to miss it a lot.”

This school will miss Mrs. Holinka, but the connections and the memories made here mean Mrs. Holinka will always be a part of South Heart school, even in retirement.

Holinka’s husband taught in Dickinson Public Schools for nearly 40 years. He retired a couple of years ago. They plan to spend retirement traveling and spending more time with their grandchildren.

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