Excellent Educator: South Elementary’s Lucille Decker

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – This week’s Excellent Educator is unlike any we’ve seen before.

Lucille Decker began her teaching career when she was 21. Seven decades later, at 92-years-old, she is still at it, teaching students at South Elementary in Princeton.

Her dedication to teaching proves age is truly just a number.

Amid the chaos that comes standard in any kindergarten room is a teacher in full control.

The soft spoken Decker supposedly retired when she was 80-years-old, that was 12 years ago. Now, four days a week you’ll find her subbing in a classroom.

“It’s been my life forever,” she said.

Forever dates back to 1945 when she taught her first 1st graders. She can still remember their names.

The children who’ve come in and out of her classroom have changed over the years, but her love of teaching them has not.

“Teaching them to read, my main focus is reading,” she said. “Their life is built on it. Their success is built on it.”

The tools in the classroom have evolved too. The Apple computers were not always fixtures in the class.

But when you’re only teaching the little ones, some subjects remain the same.

“Okay, now we’re going to go to the bathroom. We’re going to wash our hands and then we’re going to have our snack,” she told the class.

Decker has collected many fans over the years. Including one of her first students, who eventually became a teacher in the same school.

“It’s amazing because she started teaching before I did, she retired after I did. So, I didn’t even teach half as many years as she did,” Shirley Miller, a former student, said.

When asked what it means to be able to impact generation after generation of young people, Decker said it was energizing.

“It’s refreshing that I can do it and I get energy from the children,” she said.

Decker taught the very first class at South Elementary in Princeton and she’ll teach the last too. Next year the school will close and open in a brand new building nearby.

The principal told WCCO the media center will be named the “Lucille Decker Media Center” after Decker.

More from Kim Johnson
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