Real-World Opportunities for Students

Any Goal, Any Opportunity, Any Time, Anywhere

Hometown boy, Carter Rogalla, describes himself as a “husband, father, coach, teacher, and fisherman.”

His story includes athletic success during his high school years in Thief River Falls and going on to the University of North Dakota where he ended up being inducted into their Hall of Fame for some of his accomplishments in college baseball.

Fast forward a few years, and he and his wife moved back to Thief River Falls to teach and to raise their three daughters. The decision to come back was a good one for the Rogalla family. “It’s been a really good experience for my wife and I, and also our kids,” Carter said.

In his role with the school district, Carter is a teacher in the business department as well as head softball coach. If you ask him what he loves about the local school system, he gets enthusiastic about the variety of opportunities that are available to students.

Work-Based Learning Opportunities

“We have kids who go over to Digi-Key and to Arctic Cat and a lot of the other small businesses and get a chance to job shadow,” Carter said. “They can see what those experiences are like.”

In addition to opportunities at Digi-Key and Arctic Cat, Carter has had students job shadow at Sanford Health and the police department. “We provide so many opportunities for kids to see, to try, and to get that real experience instead of just the classroom setting. It’s tremendous for the kids.”

A great example is the home-building class that provides a real-world, authentic learning for local students. “The kids get a chance to build a home and sell it to someone in the community,” Carter said. “That gives them the opportunity to build something that will be standing for the next hundred and some years.”

Athletic Success

In addition to having a successful teaching career, Carter has seen a lot of success as a coach in Thief River Falls for the last 23 years. He started out with the boys’ programs and moved to the girls’ softball program in later years when his daughters started playing.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be the head softball coach for ten years,” Carter said, with a fair amount of humility. Under his leadership, the girls have been to the Minnesota playoffs four times in the last ten years.  “It’s been great seeing the success of our girls’ programs,” he added.

“We have 18 different varsity sports and have had a lot of teams end up getting down to the State tournaments, which is pretty cool,” Carter said. “We’re not that big, but we do offer a lot of things for our students.”

Moving Forward

When Donita Stepan was hired as Superintendent of Thief River Falls Public Schools in July 2020, she wanted to increase the number of opportunities for area students. With that goal in mind, one of her first priorities was revising the district’s strategic plan. “I wanted to see some passion behind the plan,” Donita said.

Over the course of several months, numerous meetings were held with community members, school board members, and leadership teams and the result of those conversations is a strategic plan that Donita is immensely proud of.

“We are so thrilled with the strategic plan because it brings opportunities to the community’s children and families,” Donita said. “We want to provide a good quality experience for anything and anywhere that a child wants to go in life.”

The revised strategic plan is built on six pillars that help to personalize the learner experience through real-world opportunities, through voice and choice, and through equitable opportunities. The plan also contains strategies to enhance safety, fiscal management, and staff growth.

Unprecedented Community Support

Donita is extremely impressed by the level of community support she has seen.

“Throughout my experience in the field of education, I have never seen so much community support,” Donita said. “It’s everything from our Education Foundation—one of the best in the State of Minnesota—to the PTSP parent group, the scholarships, and the support that we (school staff) have for our kids. It’s really unprecedented.”

Carter Rogalla couldn’t agree more.

“Our kids have a good relationship with our staff and can come and talk to them when they are struggling in different parts of their lives,” Carter said. “It’s a real community…it’s a community from the standpoint of our school, but also the entire community. I think that’s one of the big pluses of Thief River Falls and our school district.”

Click here to download a PDF version of the 12-page “Come Home to Thief River Falls” publication.

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