Douglas superintendent takes final bow Friday
MINDEN – John Soderman has had many different jobs in Douglas County since he started as a teacher in 1976. He retires from the job he’s held for the past five years as superintendent of schools on Friday.
Although known as an educator, Soderman held other occupations such as oceanography student, art student, soda jerk and janitor.
“Growing up in southern Calif., I was a surfer-SCUBA kid,” Soderman said. “My goal was to be Jacques Cousteau. I was a math major at Humboldt State trying to get a bachelor’s in oceanography but I ran out of money and quit school. I moved to Reno and got a job as a janitor.
“As I was mopping the stairs one day, I was thinking about education and that I didn’t know how I learned things.
“I took a UNR education class out of curiosity while some people grow up knowing they’re going to go into teaching,” he said.
Sideman’s first year teaching in 1975 was in Beowawe, Nev., where he made $8,500 a year, including a coaching stipend, and where his new bride Becky Soderman drove the school bus 140 miles a day.
Soderman began his education career in Gardnerville in 1976 when he started as a teacher at Carson Valley Middle School. He taught at Meneley, worked at the school district’s professional development center and returned to Meneley as principal for 9 years. He also worked as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and assistant superintendent of human resources before he became Douglas County school superintendent in 2001.
“The only office I didn’t work as a director was business services,” Soderman said. “They were all great jobs. You never master any of them.”
Soderman said there’s going to be much to miss when he retires.
“Going to work every day doing something important with other people who think it’s important too,” he said. “I’ll miss the part of this work dealing with the relationships of kids through adults.
“But I’m still going to be in town and running into people who used to be my students so I’m not going to miss that – it’s fun to get someone who introduces their wife to me.
“I wouldn’t have traded teaching in a small town for anything,” he said.
Retirement at age 55 is giving Soderman a chance to pick up old hobbies.
“I plan to fly-fish more,” he said. “I took up watercolor painting again. I want to spend more time with Becky and our daughters.
“As an educator, I took on a whole new family and kids. I’ve been dedicated to them. Now I’ll have more time to spend with my own family.”
Becky Soderman said they both like to go fly-fishing.
“We go to Montana and Idaho,” she said. “John ties his own flies. We love the whole aspect of it.
“He’s going to be a consultant but he’s not committed to anything yet,” she said. “It will take some time for him to smell the roses.”
“Doing consulting work with different districts – it will be interesting to solve problems one at a time instead of all at once,” Soderman said.
Soderman hopes he will be remembered for his importance to education.
“I hope regardless of position, I focused on students and their needs,” he said. “I took classroom instruction as job No. 1 in schooling. It’s always been a focus of Douglas County. I didn’t start it – I believed in it and carried that torch.”
To teachers, he said to keep up the good work.
“Educators are a cut above and believe in work and kids,” Soderman said. “Keeping that up is all you need to do.”
Director of Business Services Rick Kester, who retires the same day as Soderman, describes him as a friend and a good man.
“He is a person of intelligence, honesty and has a great work ethic,” said Kester.
“He’s a first-class educator. He believes in accountability and students and academics are his highest priorities. I don’t know if you can find a better superintendent.
“We both truly enjoy the work – it’s what we both really like about what we do,” said Kester.
“I respect Rick at every level – first when I was principal 15 years ago,” he said. “He’s super bright, hard-working and articulate.”
Soderman said after they retire, he hopes he and Kester will get to spend some time together fishing and hiking.
“We’re both going to be here at work until 5 p.m. on June 30, but not at 5:05 p.m.” said Soderman.