Onto the next adventure

Posted 6/7/22

EMS principal Tim Conway bids adieu By Sarah Nigbor ELLSWORTH – The energy and enthusiasm of Ellsworth Middle School Principal Tim Conway is unmatched and will be sorely missed when the 2022-23 …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Onto the next adventure


EMS principal Tim Conway bids adieu

By Sarah Nigbor

ELLSWORTH – The energy and enthusiasm of Ellsworth Middle School Principal Tim Conway is unmatched and will be sorely missed when the 2022-23 school year rolls around. Conway is retiring after 26 years with the district on June 30.

While his route into education was a winding one, the irony is that it’s a straight shot down US Highway 63 from Ellsworth to his hometown in northern Iowa, where he grew up about 200 feet from the highway in New Hampton. He attended Northern Iowa University, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in philosophy. After graduating in 1989, he headed to the University of Montana for graduate school, but spent more time hiking than skiing.

“The course work went a little by the wayside, so I figured maybe that wasn't my game," Conway laughed. He moved back to the Midwest and took a job at a wilderness-based juvenile corrections facility near Sandstone, Minn. Unfortunately, his parents were correct that the philosophers’ job market wasn’t exactly hopping. Conway describes the facility as kind of Outward Bound-based. They taught kids wilderness survival skills and took them on expeditions, such as canoe trips in Canada, hiking in the Badlands and camping in the Porcupine Mountains. Conway worked there for a few years.

“I found that I enjoyed working with the kids and I did well at it," he said. "I wondered what it would be like to work with kids a little earlier, before they needed a corrections facility." His wife, Heather, had decided to go back to school to become a social worker and Conway had been accepted at the University of Minnesota for a post-Bachelor’s study. They instead decided to be broke college students in northern Colorado, where he attended college in Greeley and she went to Fort Collins. They were focused in their studies and when finished, picked a point halfway between their families to settle: Hudson, Wis.

Conway worked as a substitute teacher, but eventually Ellsworth Community School District hired him to be an Emotional Behavior Disorders teacher at Ellsworth Middle School in 1996. Heather found work as a hospice social worker in Stillwater, Minn., but soon transitioned to the Pierce County Department of Human Services. Since they were both driving to Ellsworth every day, they decided to buy a land and build a house in the district.

Conway worked as an EBD teacher for 19 years. While he loved the job, it’s pretty intense and he needed a change. He earned his Master’s degree in educational administration. For one year, he worked 50% as an EBD teacher and 50% as the assistant principal.

“That was tough, because neither job is a part-time position," Conway said. He served as assistant principal for eight years and when Jon Dodge retired last year, he took the principal position for one year.

As time ticks away toward his retirement, Conway said easily the most enjoyable part of his job was spending time with the students.

"Really, it's all about the kids," Conway said. “We’re here for the kids, right? I like being out in the halls in the mornings between classes, at recess, talking to the kids and get- ting to know them. Working with the stau. I like to get here around 6 a.m. and have coffee with the custodians and shoot the breeze. Having the relationships with the people. It’s amazing how many people it takes to run a school. All the support stau, the custodians, admin assistants, holy smokes." As principal, Conway saw himself as a jack-of-all-trades. He had the overarching responsibility to make sure the facility and stau were functioning so kids could receive a quality education, while also managing the day-to-day things that pop up on a regular basis. This could be anything from communicating with parents, discipline issues, updat- ing the Infinite Campus system, budgeting, stau evaluations to coordinating building maintenance.

“It could be challenging navigating all the diuerent responsibilities and obligations and still being present for the kids and stau," Conway said.

There are millions of memories in twoplus decades as an educator, but perhaps none as stark as when the world stopped in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“As part of the administrative team in this district, just mobilizing to try to figure out how we were going to navigate that," Con way said. “We met daily scrapping the plans we had made the day before. Everything we were doing with incomplete, inconsistent, fluctuating information coming at us from all directions was tough. (EHS Principal) Mark (Stoesz) and I would be on the phone at 2 a.m. trying to figure this out. We didn't want kids sitting home without something going, trying to figure out how to implement online learning." If the same scenario happened today, he’s not sure he could do it again. He’s grateful how everyone came together, the school, the district and the community.

Since he loves his job, why retire? That answer is easy, he said.

“You see too many stories of people waiting to retire and running into health prob- lems," Conway said. "We want to retire when we’re still able to get out and travel and have whatever adventures that may come our way. We loved the early years and want to do that on the other side of our careers." Heather, who serves as the Pierce County Aging & Disability Resource Center director, will retire at the end of December. However, he will not be sitting at home waiting for her. He plans to substitute teach and has a big hiking trip planned with his uncle from Canada to Duluth on the Superior Hiking Trail.

“I’ve always wanted to do the Appala- chian or the Pacific Crest trail," Conway said. "Maybe that's next."