Central principal retires this year

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Central high school principal and athletic director Dan Yanda is retiring this year after nearly 40 years in education.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

A longtime educator and administrator is closing the book on one chapter of his life and opening it on the next.
After 39 years in education, Central High School principal Dan Yanda is retiring. This summer, he will pack up the office that’s been his home-away-from home for 14 years, take a few weeks to indulge in past times he enjoys like fishing and biking, and then maybe look for some type of employment.
“At this time, I’m not really sure (about long-term retirement plans),” Yanda said.
A Traer native, Yanda graduated from the North Tama Community School District where he played sports and participated in fine arts. He initially attended Iowa State University for a degree in fisheries and wildlife biology but later transferred to Central College where he earned an undergraduate degree in education.
Yanda is married to Carolyn Yanda, who retired from Central last year. They have three grown children: Danielle Rutkowski, who lives with her husband, Tom, and son, Hunter, in Tipton, Iowa, where she works in a medical lab at the University of Iowa; Aubrey Yanda who lives in San Francisco, California and is a athletic trainer; and Tyler Yanda, who is a teacher in Mumbai, India.
Yanda took time from his busy end-of-the-year schedule to answer some questions from the Register. Here’s a look at his career, the changes he’s witnessed, and his advice for Aaron Reinhart, who has been hired as his replacement.
Where did you start your career? I started my teaching career in Bennett, Iowa, in 1979 teaching physical education and middle and high school science classes. During my teaching career, I taught at some time, elementary, middle, and high school physical education, high school health, physical science, and middle school science. During my 25- year teaching career, I also coached high school football at both Bennett-Durant and Tipton, along with coaching middle school boys and girls basketball, high school girls basketball, junior high girls and boys track, and high school softball.
Throughout my teaching career, I worked for Pioneer Seed Company in the summers, eventually running my own detasseling company employing close to hundred people.
When did you come to Elkader and did you come here as the high school principal? I came to Central in the fall of 2004 as the middle and high school principal and activities director and have held that position for fourteen years.  
What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve witnessed during your tenure at Central? One change that is constantly revolving is technology and the educational world, all the way from zoom classes with the instructor at Central connecting with students in neighboring schools to how devices such as iPads and laptops have moved learning to a another level. Other changes along the way have been the district moving to standards-based grading, project-based learning, and online college class offerings to name just a few changes that I have seen along the way.
What have been the challenges and rewards of your career? The challenges of being a principal and activity director are balancing all of the demands of the job when working with students, staff, parents, and the community. So often times, you are sitting in a position that demands a quick decision and one that centers on common sense and what is best for the educational process. The greatest reward that I get is when I have past graduates come back and reflect on how Central has prepared them for the lives they are now living and the comments they make about appreciating the efforts that they received from the Central staff, even though they may have not thought that when in school.
What will you miss most about your job? I will definitely miss the working relationships that I have built with staff at Central and also those beyond the walls of Central with other ADs, coaches, and administrators. I will also miss those golden moments when those I work with reach some type of accomplishment for all of their efforts. I would see this in the classroom when that light bulb came on, as they say, and a student realized all the efforts they had put into understanding something paid off and they “ got it.” With staff when their persistence to make sure a student reached their potential in class paid off and that student comes back later to thank that teacher for helping them along the way. And finally with athletes and coaches when those moments happen that they can reflect back on the effort it took along the way and they feel inside of them that rush of adrenaline, whether it is winning a game, making a basket, getting a 1 rating in speech or music, or seeing that athlete who has limited athletic ability smile when crossing the finish line.
What advice do you have for the person who will be taking your job? Don’t plan to get everything done that you need to because your list will grow as the day unfolds.
Find the leadership style that is who you are and use that leadership to create a culture around you that makes people want to work to their potential, and also makes them feel comfortable to walk into your office to share idea’s or feelings.
Nothing replaces the line of communication that face-to-face interaction does; electronic communication has its own time and place.
When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter if people like you, it is if they respect you.
What are some of your best memories of your time at Elkader?  I have a lot of fond memories while being an administrator at Central that all center on great relationships with students and staff. I think back to all of the success and recognition that I have been able to witness with so many students and staff, whether is was in the classroom or in the extra-curricular arena. It was always satisfying to be a part of  that.

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