The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

Minneapolis


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Paul Menge Tells Tale of Teaching, Retirement

Menge set to retire come end of 2022 school year, recounts life of lessons
Menge+works+behind+his+desk+outside+the+senior+lounge.+His+office+is+decorated+with+gifts+of+gratitude+from+former+students.+During+his+time+at+Blake+he+has+also+been+a+biology+teacher%2C+soccer+coach%2C+interim+Upper+School+Director+and+a+grade+dean+as+well+as+an+advisor+to+a+current+junior+advisory.+
Betsy Fries
Menge works behind his desk outside the senior lounge. His office is decorated with gifts of gratitude from former students. During his time at Blake he has also been a biology teacher, soccer coach, interim Upper School Director and a grade dean as well as an advisor to a current junior advisory.

During Paul Menge’s 34 year tenure at Blake he has taken on many positions reaching the hearts of those he teaches and interacts with. Currently, Menge serves as the assistant director at the Upper School which involves teaching one class, for Menge this is Biology. Originally, his love and pursuit of teaching was inspired by his sister, who is also a teacher. Talking about the impact she had on her students as well as the inspiration she had on Menge’s investment of working in a community, Menge notes “I also always felt like I wanted to do something that involved working with people so [teaching and working at a school] felt like something that would come naturally to me… I think our family has valued being in a profession where you can interact with and hopefully have an impact on people’s lives.” Menge’s family  includes his brother who is a doctor, his sister who is a teacher, and his own two children, also teachers.

Menge with graduate Isabel Hall in 2016. Commencement used to be held in a courtyard at the Hopkins campus which has since been enclosed.

However, Menge’s start in education did not begin at Blake. 10 years prior to Blake, Menge taught at another private school, one he had gone to as a kid, Hill Murray. In 2019 he won a distinguished alumni award at the school, as a legacy teacher. With his lengthy history at the school, Menge had decided it was time to begin a new chapter. He explained, “I realized that I needed to spread out, move on, expand. So I applied to Blake, interviewed, and felt it would be a good fit for me.” Menge was enticed by Blake’s close knit and invested community. In addition, Blake also allowed Menge to pursue different roles in education. He says, “I was able to be a teacher, I have been the department chair of science from time to time. I was the grade dean. I was a soccer coach, and now I work as an assistant director. I’ve really been able to expand the experience I’ve had working at Blake. I’m really grateful for the opportunities Blake has given me.” Menge elaborates that Blake has not only provided him with extensive opportunities but additionally numerous people whom he worked alongside for many years. Karen Phillips, a colleague of Menge for 23 years, notes, “we had a different administrative structure and there weren’t grade deans in the same way [there are now]…[Mr. Menge] was amongst the first that took on that role…we weren’t quite sure how that model was going to work but he really embraced that and said you know this is my grade, this is my class and worked with them in a way that had set the tone and the model for you know for this whole change which was a really big change  at the time.”

 

 Besides his love of teaching Menge is passionate about athletics. In his time at Blake he has coached both girls and boys soccer. For his first four years at Blake, Menge coached boys soccer and he later moved on to coach girls varsity soccer for 27 years. For Menge, some of the most memorable times coaching girls soccer came from the years where the team made it to state. Menge says “There was a period where we won five years in a row in the state tournament. We went a total of 10 times in my time here. Won the state tournament twice in 2000 and 2011, those were certainly highlights.”

Moreover other highlights from his time at Blake include building and sustaining positive relationships, one of which being the close knit bond with his advisory. Avery Schwappach ‘23, one of Menge’s advisees says, He has brought students, even those he doesn’t teach,  together with his compassion and dedication to all students. Lucky Lilygreen ‘23, another of Menge’s advisees states “The best thing about having Mr. Menge as an advisor he does the activities that we are supposed to do as an advisory but he actually always makes it personal and he always brings his own personal stories and that allows us to just talk and hang out as an advisory. We do a lot of activities but we also just sit and talk to get to know each other through conversation. That is the best thing about our advisory. I feel like I can share anything with my advisory and with Mr. Menge.” For Schwappach the most memorable moments shared with Menge are when “Everyday I stop into his office and just talk to him for like two minutes before class and [I] always just really appreciate that.” Not only is Menge attentive in his role as an advisor but equally as entertaining. Lilygreen’s memorable moments of the advisory are when “We had a member of out advisory who left to go to boarding school and during COVID-19, he’s still in our advisory snapchat group chat which is super funny and he just talks in there sometimes but, he requested to join Zoom and Mr. Menge let him in and we just had a really fun time just laughing all together so that was a funny memory.” The two both agree that Menge has been a wonderful advisor who not only supports them but also creates a fun environment in advisory.

Before “Claws out!” became a chant at games and events, Menge posed with the 2017 Blake Girls’ Soccer team. (CC Wallin)

 

 Despite his many fond memories, impact on Blake and passion for teaching, Menge has decided to retire from Blake following the end of the 2021-2022 school year. He says, “I’m also at a place now where my wife is retired, where I have a new grandson. I’m fortunate to have a really supporting extended family, I’d like to spend more time with things like travel or those things. The time just felt right and 44 years total in education I feel like I’ve put a good amount of time in. But I want to make clear, I’m retiring at a time I still really enjoy what I do, I just feel like it’s time to try something new, to start new endeavors.” 

As for his plans outside of teaching, Menge is excited to start pursuing his hobbies: biking, drumming, and lots of outdoor activities such as kayaking, landscaping, and maintaining his yard. Alongside his hobbies Menge is committed to continuing his passion for helping and supporting others around him whether that be through volunteer work or additional opportunities. Both of Menge’s advisees Schwappach and Lilygreen say it is bittersweet to see him go prior to  their senior year but acknowledge that Menge is making the right decision for himself. 

Although the larger Blake community will certainly lack Menge’s presence in the hallway for years to come, his impactful presence has no doubt shaped the minds of countless young students and reshaped the foundation of the school. Through his dedication to education and positive light that guided so many students throughout their school career, Menge will forever have impacted the school in ways too numerous to name. Phillips concludes that, “Paul’s a thoughtful colleague. He really cares about students, he puts students first above everything and I really respect that about him.”

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Betsy Fries, Contributing Writer
Hey there, I'm Betsy. My pronouns are she/her. My toxic personality trait is that I like my iced coffee more than I like my friends. Sorry not sorry. I'm a Senior, and I am currently a Contributing Writer. My freshman year I started as a staff photographer and I wrote a couple articles. I loved seeing the end result of the final paper and wanted to contribute more to the process. Sophomore year I edited Features and was the Photography Editor. Last year I was the Creative Director and Photography Editor. I also edited Food Features for a short amount of time. Last semester I was the Creative Director. I like to take photos and stuff...

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