By the time this is published, the school bell will have rang the final time for Toni Hood at Fort Dodge Senior High,
After 40 years in education, Hood retired at the end of the school year. By now, she is hopefully working on that lifelong goal of hers to read every Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
But before she left, Hood took time to sit down and reflect on her lifetime in education.
“I have mixed emotions because this has been my whole adult life,” Hood says.
A Storm Lake native, Hood earned undergraduate degrees in English and psychology at Buena Vista University. She credits some influential educators in helping her map out a career at the head of the class.
“When I went to college I was fortunate to have some very good professors, and they just really did what a good professor is supposed to do: they made me want to learn more; they made me love my subject matter, and so I became a teacher because I loved my subject matter,”
She also learned to appreciate the joy of working with young people.
“Never underestimate a teenager,” she says. “They are very creative thinkers.”
Hood spent much of her career in small schools near Storm Lake and Humboldt. When she saw an ad for an opening at Fort Dodge in 2000, she decided to take a chance.
“I had always heard very good things about Fort Dodge Senior High,” she recalls.
Looking back, it was perhaps the best move she could have made.
“I really like the large school. I like the diversity. I feel that Fort Dodge Senior High is a microcosm of the larger community, and that’s a good thing. I think the experiences and the people that the students encounter on a daily basis are much like what they’ll encounter post high school,” she says.
Hood has taught a variety of psychology and English classes, and seeks to pass on her own love of literature to her students.
“In literature we learn that times change, people don’t. The basic impulse we have to be better, and to lead meaningful lives, and to walk in truth, those things never change,” she say.