The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 5, 2011

Community education director earns state award

MANKATO — Joan Eisenreich had already been teaching art for several years in public schools when she realized she was in the wrong field.

So, she stopped teaching and went back to school at the University of Minnesota-Morris to pursue a physical education degree and become a youth coach. After graduating from college (again), Eisenreich got a job in the city of Morris’ department of community education as a playground supervisor.

And that, as they say, was that.

“It looked like something I could really get into doing,” Eisenreich remembered thinking at the time.

Now, she’s spent nearly her entire career as a community education director. And on Oct. 27, her work will be recognized with a Community Educator Award from the Minnesota Community Education Association.

The award is given annually to community education directors who provide “outstanding service in promoting community education.” The award also recognizes involvement at the state level where Eisenreich has served on several committees, including the legislative committee.

She was nominated by her co-workers in the division that includes school districts with a population greater than 15,000.

“It’s never the same,” said Eisenreich, who is now in her fifth year as director of the Mankato Department of Community Education and Recreation. “Every day is different and interesting.”

After spending a few years in Morris, Eisenreich got her first job as a director for St. Peter’s program in 1979. She then served in the same capacity in Le Sueur before accepting a position in Mankato in 1988.

Since then, she said community education has evolved from its traditional mission of providing recreational opportunities.

Now, programming includes career-readiness courses, educational offerings and hobby classes, to name a few. The department works more closely with the school district than ever and Eisenreich said it has become an “integral” piece of the Mankato community.

In the future, she said the department will continue to adapt. Mankato’s program will soon unveil an e-marketing campaign as well as add to its opportunities for youth, especially those with disabilities.

“The field is really growing up,” she said.

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