The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 19, 2013

Waseca music teacher remembered as a master educator

WASECA — Teachers foster learning with textbook examples.

And sometimes, they become textbook examples themselves.

Richard “Butch” Dufault was Exhibit A of what a good teacher should be, friends and former students say.

 As a music instructor and band leader at Waseca High School until the mid-1990s, his teaching went well beyond drilling kids on the rote steps and tunesmithing required of a marching and field-performance band.

His former parent-volunteer helpmate Joe Fritz said Dufault, who died Sunday at age 71, was a master at using constructive peer pressure to steer students toward his mission.

“He got kids to buy in, and with 150 kids, that takes a lot of work.”

Fritz said he did this by appealing to their desire to do well — an appeal that would start from the get-go at 7 a.m. when band members reported to the football field for practice.

Fritz said Dufault would shower them with encouragement and, when necessary, lay some tough love on those who were slacking.

“He’d pick out a kid and get in his face — almost bull charge at the kid — and say, ‘Do you really want to be here?’ ”

It was a lesson not lost on the teen’s bandmates. Ditto for early-morning sessions in the school band room.

Former student Rachael Hanel said Dufault was a stickler for punctuality, to the point that if practice was at 7 a.m., he’d lock the door a few seconds later and force any stragglers to stay out until he was ready to admit them.

“He kept them out long enough to teach them a lesson,” Hanel said. “When they came in, everyone would be staring at them.”

It was another example of Dufault using students’ peers to effectively deliver a teaching punch. 

Dufault’s skills at instilling strong work ethics, goal-setting and working together for a common cause paid off on the performance field.

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