Catching up with the Prosens isn't easy (because they never stop moving)
Although Tim and Sara Prosen don't have any close relatives in Carlton County, they have plenty of family here.
First, there are their three children: Cale, age 10, Emmet, 7, and Blake, 5. There are scores of Tim's current and former students and athletes from Cloquet High School. People from church. The folks at the library, where they used to walk every week when they lived down the street. Classmates. Team members. Ski Club kids who cross country ski and jump with the boys. Other runners. Former neighbor and adopted grandpa Urban Felstrup. People they know from attending the same event every year, like the Pine Journal Christmas Open House, where young Blake played his guitar for Santa Claus last year.
"In a small town when you go to a lot of events again and again, you get to know a lot of people," Tim said.
He told how Blake -- an adorable, very energetic, tow-headed 5-year-old -- got to know Cloquet Police Corporal Corey Schneberger.
"They met at a Cloquet High School football game because, of course, we go to as many sporting events as we can," Tim explained, then pointed to a pile of zigzag metal shavings that Blake found by a railroad track the week before. "Now he wants me to call Corey and tell him Blake has a gift for him."
The Prosens are just like that. Meet them, become their friends.
At ski jumping practice, Tim is often one of the first parents to pick up a rake and get to work smoothing out the snow. While he's on the hill, Sara is keeping a close eye on all three boys, comforting them when they fall, making sure Blake doesn't range too far too fast, chatting with other parents and comparing notes on jumping successes and failures.
That's kind of how it works at home, too, at least now while the boys are still relatively young. Both Tim and Sara work - she works three days a week at Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging (AAAA) and he works five-plus days as a teacher, head track coach, middle school football coach, wrestling referee and academic coach as well. (And that's a reduction in commitments, Tim said, noting that he downsizes every time they have another son.)
"Ultimately, when I'm gone, Sara is holding the fort together and sometimes I'm gone a lot," he said.
Even when they're together, they're gone a lot. The Prosens aren't a family that sits around much. They hike at Jay Cooke State Park frequently. Ride bikes. Run. (Well, Tim, Sara and Cale run while Emmet rides his bike and Blake gets a free ride in the stroller.) Hunt. Fish. Attend sporting events at Cloquet High School. ("We are Lumberjacks, through and through," said Sara, even though they live in rural Carlton County now.)
"It's kind of a circus out there, but it's fun," Tim said. "It's time that, to me, we are not watching TV or sitting around."
Sara takes up the conversational thread.
"We encounter things when we're out there," she said. "Animals. People I haven't seen in a while. A bald eagle.
It's life out there."
When asked what they think being involved in sports teaches their very active children, Tim is quick to point out that staying active is key, not being an athlete necessarily.
"Of course I think sports are important, but I think balance and staying involved is what matters, whether it's a school play or a sport. They all teach you teamwork, dedication, social skills, working toward a common goal and seeing a definite payoff to hard work.
"I hope my kids do things I didn't do, like a school play or an academic competition. As a teacher, I've seen what those bring to students' lives.
An award-winning teacher
Tim said Cloquet High School has "an all-star team of teachers."
"You walk in and the bar is instantly raised," Tim said, noting he had big shoes to fill when he replaced retiring teacher Doug Johnson 10 years ago.
And, while he had never taught economics at his two previous Minnesota schools -- Sleepy Eye and Willow River -- the third-year teacher proved himself up to the challenge.
Now, according to an announcement by the Minnesota Council on Economic Education (MCEE), he's being recognized for that hard work.
MCEE will honor Prosen at its yearly EconFest celebration on Nov. 7 at General Mills World Headquarters in Golden Valley, Minn. Tim will receive the 3M Economic Educator Excellence Award, which annually recognizes one educator who demonstrates a sustained history of commitment and contribution to economic education and comes with a $1,500 cash award.
In selecting the winning teacher, judges considered leadership in economic education; sustained commitment to economic education; continuing preparation in economic education; and contributions to students' intellectual growth in economics.
A MCEE press release stated that Tim has been instrumental in helping his students achieve economics and personal finance understanding. His students actively participate in Minnesota's Economics Challenge, Personal Finance Decathlon, and Global Food Challenge. Most recently, his students claimed four of eight available awards in the 2013 Global Food Challenge and placed second in the 2013 MN Economics Challenge in the large school division.
When asked why he enjoys teaching economics, Tim shared with the judges that "it is very relevant to students' lives, and you can certainly see the support from parents and the community in the importance of economic education." He went on to say that he likes to relate economics to current and historical events, where he "can take an economic approach to help my students understand every situation, whether [it is] the Civil War or the conflict in Syria."
Tim is humble about the award, noting he had help from former student Amanda Rosemore (who now works for the anti-trust division of the U.S. Department of Justice) and CHS Principal Warren Peterson, a former economics teacher himself.
"It's nice to be honored," Tim said, "but ultimately my job is to just do a better job in the classroom every day."
Making a home
Tim and Sara Prosen bought a house in Cloquet before either of them even had a job in the area.
It was February 2002. Sara was in year two of grad school in Mankato and Tim was teaching in Sleepy Eye.
"We could have gone anywhere," Sara said. "We just started driving up here -- we wanted to be near Duluth -- and we fell in love with Cloquet."
They'd gotten acquainted with the area a couple years before, when Tim ran in Grandma's Marathon, something he's done 13 times now. (Sara and he have also run several half marathons together as well as the Ragnar Relay; she is aiming to run the Twin Cities Marathon next fall.)
"Cloquet is a nice balance between the town and all the natural resources, but you're not in the big city of Duluth," Tim said, cracking a smile.
By the time they moved up in June, Sara had a job with AAAA and Tim found work driving a dump truck for a local asphalt company, something he had done to help pay for college.
In July, he took a job teaching at Willow River and coaching football under Dave Louzek.
"The next year I did asphalt in the summer, and coached football and track," said Tim, who wrestled in college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he and Sara met during freshman orientation. "Then we started having kids and I quit working in the summer."
Then the job opened in Cloquet and he jumped at it.
"There's not a lot of turnover in Cloquet," he said. "The teachers here are extremely professional; there are a lot of advanced degrees. You show up and your job is to teach. You're held to very high academic standards."
In the meantime, their family kept growing and eventually got a little too big for their whacky stone home in the heart of Cloquet. They purchased land north of Cloquet in rural Carlton County, cleared it and spent two years doing everything the work crews didn't.
Often that meant Tim going out to work on the house while Sara stayed home and managed the family... after she picked up everything on the Menard's list on her way home from work, of course.
"It was a labor of love," Sara said. "Without our strong relationship, it would have been a challenge though."
The house is done now, and they love it. Hidden in the trees with a pond to the side, it's a great place to raise three boys.
The boys rattled off a few of the activities they enjoy as a family.
"Playing games and Legos," said Emmet.
"Board games, soccer games," said Cale, adding that he also likes to do geocaching and go fishing.
He winces as Blake shoots a model plane across the room.
"Blake likes anything that makes a lot of noise," Sara said, laughing.
Still, even though they live in their dream home in the country, the Prosens make their way to Cloquet frequently.
Sara shares a conversation she had with Churchill Principal Dave Wangen after the recent River Run 5K and 1-Mile race.
"I said, 'Doesn't this really feel like a big family reunion?'" she said, marveling at the fantastic atmosphere at the annual event. "He smiled and said 'Yes.'"
That makes it a perfect place for the Prosen family to be.