Students at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College quietly filed into Don Hanson’s classroom Friday, Dec. 20, for their chemistry final like they’ve done for many years.

This exam was a little more special for Hanson, however, since it is likely the last one he’ll ever give.

Hanson retired this week after spending more than five decades teaching students at Cloquet High School and FDLTCC.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth, the Proctor native taught for a year in Minneapolis before spending 34 years as a science teacher at Cloquet. He spent the last 16 as a chemistry instructor at FDLTCC.

FDLTCC President Stephanie Hammitt said she was in Hanson’s classes when she was in high school nearly 40 years ago.

“He just was always involved and always smiling,” Hammitt said. “He is always a happy person, and that is just contagious.”

Hanson’s enthusiasm for science and teaching continued to inspire students and help them be successful as he transitioned from a high school teacher to a college instructor.

“Recently, one of our students said the only reason they went further in college was because Mr. Hanson was such a good teacher,” Hammitt said. “She didn’t think she could do it, but she was able to be successful in his chemistry class.”

Hammitt was impressed with how Hanson has adapted to all the changes in education over the past half century, but Hanson said one thing hasn’t changed — the students.

“All of the innovations with electronics have been a big change, but from the first time I walked into a classroom to the last time I walked into a classroom, the feeling is the same,” Hanson said. “I can’t walk into class and say, ‘Gee, things are really different than they used to be.’ When you are standing in front of students, nothing changes that way. You are face-to-face with students, and for me that is the best part — by far the best part.”

Now that he’s retired, Hanson said he’s really looking forward to traveling more with his wife, Sue, and there are no regrets about his career choice.

“I’ve done this now for 51 years and I’ve never regretted it,” he said. “I’ve never regretted my choice of profession — I’ve never gotten up in the morning and wished I could go back to bed.”

The faculty and staff at FDLTCC were instrumental in his decision to continue working the past 16 years since he retired from the Cloquet School District.

“The staff around here have always just been so supportive,” Hanson said. “Basically everybody’s got everybody’s back. They are just helpful at every turn, they are kind and so very competent. It makes it nice to go to work.”