MARYSVILLE — In his 38 years as an educator, Pete Lundberg has always looked forward to coming into work in the morning, and eight years ago when he was eligible for retirement, he promised himself that as long as he had the energy level to keep on going, he’d just keep on going.
After 24 years at the Marysville School District, Lundberg has been the principal of Marysville Middle School since 1991, and while he still looks forward to coming into work in the morning, this past school year was the one when his energy level finally went below what he felt comfortable with. So, on June 23, Lundberg will be celebrating his retirement.
“I was still only 52 when I hit my 30-year mark, so I was a relatively young man,” Lundberg said. “I was still having fun and I saw that a lot of other folks who had retired who didn’t know what to do with themselves without work. I enjoy the work, but I see that things are going well here and I thought that it’d be better for me to leave before somebody else told me to leave,” he laughed.
Lundberg was equally jovial when asked about his post-retirement plans.
“I’ve been telling people that I’m going to walk the earth, like Kwai Chang Caine in ‘Kung Fu,’” Lundberg laughed again. “I’ve loved that line ever since Samuel L. Jackson said it in ‘Pulp Fiction,’ but it’s true. I just want to be.”
While Lundberg is already looking forward to reading, building, fishing, traveling and exploring, he acknowledged that he’ll be leaving behind a rigorous schedule, since school administrators “make more decisions before 8 a.m. than most people make all day,” but he believes he’s prepared to “kick back a notch.”
For nearly 40 years, Lundberg has kept up with all the changes in education, from state reforms, which he credited with ensuring educator accountability, to the rapid pace of technological development.
“We’ve always had good teachers, but before curricula became as standardized, they could be unfocused at times,” Lundberg said. “Now, regardless of which school and which grade I might walk into, I could pretty much tell you what they’re teaching. There’s continuity throughout the state.”
Lundberg has seen students switch from bulky, unforgiving manual typewriters to word processing programs that allow them to make revisions without retyping entire pages, and he still marvels at the ways in which the Internet has connected people with information, as well as with each other.
“Before, landline telephones were the communication device and you called people when you had something specific to talk about,” Lundberg said. “Now, especially with Twitter, there’s just this ongoing conversation online, all the time, and I’m still not used to it. Also, when students wanted information, it used to be that they had to go down to the library and check out stacks of books. But now, with any computer with a search engine, every student has the world’s library at their fingertips.”
Lundberg has also seen families undergo a shift since he started teaching. He estimated that when he began teaching, at the Timberline High School in Lacey in 1971, most of his students were still being raised by both of their biological parents, whereas now, he suspects that such students are no longer a majority.
Lundberg credited his own family, specifically his mother, with getting him involved in education in the first place, since he’d originally been more interested in psychology. He wound up double-majoring in education and psychology in Eastern Washington University, to give himself a second profession to fall back on, but he became less enamored of school psychology once he found out it centered more on student assessments.
“I’m more of a people person so I went into teaching instead,” Lundberg said. “My first year’s salary was $7,100. I turned 22 only two months before I started teaching and one of my students that first year was 21, but I was immediately hooked.”
Although Lundberg believes that he owes much of that initial enthusiasm to his fellow teachers during that first year, the oldest of whom was 29, he’s remained excited about education because of the students themselves, as well as the other teachers he’s gone on to work with.
“Kids are able to do so much more than most people give them credit for,” Lundberg said. “If you can challenge them, they’ll produce more than you expect. And if you trust teachers and let them lead, they’ll also surpass what you believe they might be able to do, because they really do love and believe in the kids and want to help them learn. It’s a truly magical combination. Empowerment is something that’s talked about a lot, but is seldom actually done.”
Lundberg leaves the Marysville School District proud of his accomplishments and appreciative of the experiences he’s gained.
“Education is probably the best, most fulfilling, most rewarding job on Earth,” Lundberg said. “I’ve been eager to go to work, every day, and I don’t think there are many people who can say that.”
Lundberg’s retirement celebration takes place June 23 from 5-9 p.m. in the Mpulse Lounge of the Tulalip Resort Casino. Admission is $25 per person. Please RSVP to Pat Kamimura at Marysville Middle School, 4923 67th St. NE, Marysville, WA 98270.