It’s been a great run.
That’s how Roger Volentine, math instructor for North Platte Community College, describes his teaching experience. The Kearney native will retire May 16 after 22 years of service to the community college.
Altogether, Volentine has been an educator for 42 years — a fact that still makes him chuckle, considering teaching was never in his original plans.
“I actually wanted to be a coach because I love athletics,” Volentine said. “Before I left high school, my geometry teacher asked me what I was going to teach since teaching and coaching tend to go hand-in-hand. I hadn’t thought about that before. She said, ‘You should teach math. You’re pretty good at it.’”
Math seemed like a far cry from sports, and much less exciting, as far as Volentine was concerned.
So by the time he graduated from Kearney High School in 1972, he had made up his mind to teach another subject — physical education.
It was still athletics, and Volentine knew most of the small schools expected PE teachers to coach, too. By his second semester of college, however, Volentine decided he didn’t really want to spend all day, every day in a gym.
So he switched to math.
Volentine’s first job out of college in 1976 was teaching math and coaching boys’ basketball and track at Thedford. The next year, the high school’s athletic director left, and Volentine applied for the position.
“I loved it,” Volentine said. “I like organizing things and really found my niche in that role.”
What he didn’t like by that time was coaching.
“After a few years in, I quit coaching, but kept teaching,” Volentine said. “I had come to love teaching, which was surprising to me because it was almost the opposite of what I had planned to go into. I enjoyed being around students in a classroom setting and trying to figure out how to explain things in a way they would understand.”
Purpose wasn’t the only thing Volentine found in Thedford. It’s where he met his wife Kristy.
“I had been there about three years when she arrived to teach PE,” Roger said. “We were married after less than a year of dating. She’s been very supportive and a great encouragement to me over the years.”
In 1982, the Volentines moved to Mullen. Kristy taught Title I reading and math at the elementary school while Roger served as math teacher and athletic director at the high school.
“We stayed in Mullen for 14 years,” Roger said. “I liked it up in the Sandhills. We met a lot of good people – good kids.”
The Volentines relocated to North Platte in 1996 so Roger could accept the position of math instructor for NPCC. It was a big change from teaching at high school.
“I was pretty overwhelmed the first year I was here,” Roger said. “There was definitely a period of adjustment, but once I got settled, I loved it. Working at the college has been the best job I’ve had, and that’s saying a lot because I really enjoyed my time in the high schools.”
Some of his students at the college have been students he also taught in Thedford and Mullen.
“That’s been fun,” Roger said. “I’ve also seen some students return to my classroom who weren’t quite ready for college the first time I taught them. Perhaps they were immature, perhaps they didn’t have good study habits, or maybe a combination of both. Then they were back 2-3 years later, and they were different people and good students. I’ve seen that happen several times over the years, and it has been very rewarding.”
Commencement is a proud day for Roger, even more so when he sees students graduating who have had to overcome personal challenges.
“To see them achieve their goals – that makes the day even more remarkable,” Roger said. “It’s things like that I’m really going to miss.”
He will also miss students, fellow instructors, administrators and staff, but retiring seems like the right thing to do at this point in his life.
“My wife and I want to travel while we still can,” Roger said. “We have a son, Jason, his wife, Hailey, and our grandson, Leo, in Phoenix and a daughter, Angela, and her husband, Alex, in Houston, so those two cities will get a lot of our time.”
As for his successor, Roger hopes he or she will enjoy the college as much as he has.
“They are coming to a good place,” Roger said. “They can become as involved in things around here as they want to be. There are a lot of opportunities within the college, outside of teaching. It’s been an excellent job, and I’m grateful for the time I’ve had.”
There will be an open house for Roger Volentine from 2-4 p.m. May 9. It will be in the fireplace area of the McDonald-Belton Building on the NPCC south campus, 601 W. State Farm Rd. Everyone is invited to stop by and wish Volentine well on his retirement. Refreshments will be provided.