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The Spartan Speaks

The Student News Site of Orono High School

The Spartan Speaks

The Student News Site of Orono High School

The Spartan Speaks

The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Keith Jurek

Orono DECA
Left to right: Megan Marie (parent volunteer), Keith Jurek, Sara Will Noznesky (DECA consultant)

For fifty-five of the years that Orono Public Schools has been around, Keith Jurek has been here for thirty and he has announced his upcoming retirement. Jurek is an irreplaceable presence at Orono, building relationships with students and peers and being involved in the Orono community during his teaching career in the business department.

Surprisingly, Jurek explains that throughout elementary and middle school, he was the kid teachers did not want in class. It was not until high school in Frederick, Wisconsin, that he found his groove.

“I enjoyed being in a classroom. And my perspective on life changed after that. And I knew in high school I wanted to teach or coach, but I couldn’t find something that I felt I’d be a good teacher,” said Jurek.

Jurek found his love for teaching business when he found a marketing education major in college at UW Stout. He graduated from UW Stout in 1986 with a BS in Marketing Education degree, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“And so I kind of gave up the dream of being a teacher. Until I stumbled into this marketing education thing, which I didn’t know existed. And somebody pointed that out to me when I was a sophomore in college, and I was back on track,” Jurek said.

However, Jurek felt he was not quite ready to teach so he explored a career in sales for the next five years after he graduated.

“Every job I took, I took it to be a better teacher. Because I thought it would make me more well-rounded in the classroom,” said Jurek.

Once at Orono High School, Jurek settled into the business department, teaching Economics, Marketing, and a Student Work Program. He currently teaches Marketing 1 and 2 and Consumer Economics. A large part of the marketing classes is the DECA program.

“DECA provides opportunities for students interested in marketing and entrepreneurship to develop leadership skills, self-confidence, and professionalism; participate in leadership conferences, competitive events, community service projects, and social activities,” described by the Orono Public Schools website.

Students who participate in DECA continue to come out of the experience with no regrets. Many say that the skills and knowledge learned from participating in DECA were extremely valuable and will continue to shine in many of their aspiring business-related careers.

“I definitely think my conversation skills have grown a lot, especially with talking with adults. I would say you should join DECA because there’s something for everybody in it,” said Orono Spartan Store Senior Manager Luke Tufvander.

DECA is not only educational but also a fun experience where students get to grow themselves and have fun.

“I would say that you got to do it, because you really can’t lose by doing DECA; you gained so many skills, even if you’re not going into business, that is just important to have for life. And you get to create your own adventure,” said Marketing II student Ellie Wheaton.

As the Orono DECA advisor, Jurek was awarded the Honorary Life Member Award in 2012 by the Minnesota chapter of Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA).

“Given annually to individuals who have supported DECA and marketing education, the Honorary Life Member Award recognizes those who have given a minimum of seven years of service,” according to Patch News.

As much as students value the experience of DECA, Jurek continues his passion for the program each year. Even so, when his work-life balance wasn’t working anymore, he gave up coaching football and didn’t hesitate to go all in on DECA.

“It’s just something that’s so fun to connect with kids on. I know they’re going to be better served because of it later. Well, you just watch it and see it’s such a fun journey with the kids, and it’s just irreplaceable,” said Jurek.

Jurek displays his value to the Orono community throughout the year, and his Spartan Spirit is evident during Homecoming Week. Jurek has added to the unity that Homecoming Week brings to the district each year with the Homecoming Week t-shirts that he designs. These t-shirts are worn by kindergarteners through high school seniors as well as staff throughout all the schools. Many Orono students enjoy this tradition and are always eager to order their t-shirts.

Likewise, students absorb Orono Spartan Spirit each week in Jurek’s classroom, as he and other students fill his whiteboards with announcements about upcoming sporting events. You can often find Jurek working or attending volleyball, hockey, soccer, and football games. He also attends the teacher appreciation games. Jurek makes it a point to show his interest in his student’s lives outside of the classroom.

“Mr. Jurek is about the most caring teacher at Orono. He cares, genuinely, about the well-being of his students,” said Wheaton.

Jurek’s reputation will long outlive his career at Orono as he has had a large impact on students and staff. Many students know him, regardless of having him as a teacher or not, as the one who is always smiling and greeting you as you walk into school. Fellow business teacher Leslie O’Meara has been working with Jurek for eighteen years, and they continue the tradition of standing on the blank wall outside of their classrooms greeting students, a tradition O’Meara said has been going on long before her or Jurek ever came to Orono.

Those around him have long-lasting memories and differing perspectives about him. If Jurek didn’t teach business, fellow colleagues and students could see him teaching: psychology, English, wood shop, physical education, yoga, or geography.

No matter how those around him view him, we can all agree that his booming voice and happy smile will be missed in the halls.

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About the Contributor
Natalie Widen, Staff Reporter
Hi, my name is Natalie Widen. I am a senior this year and have been at Orono since kindergarten. Outside of school, I enjoy water sports and being with friends and family. I am going to college for nursing.

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  • J

    Jennifer AndersonFeb 19, 2024 at 6:23 pm

    What a great and accurate representation of Mr. Jurek. I had the fortune of having him as a teacher and going to nationals for Deca in 1996 What an amazing experience. He is such an impactful teacher, and I am grateful to have had him as one and lucky to call him a friend today.

  • T

    The KingsFeb 19, 2024 at 1:24 pm

    Congratulations on your retirement! The king family and your friends in Troncones!

  • B

    Bob and Patsy StumpFeb 19, 2024 at 1:19 pm

    Congratulations Keith!
    As an extended family member to Keith, we have known him to be of moral character and integrity. Someone you can’t help but admire as a person, a husband and loving father. May you enjoy your “next life”. The best is yet to come!
    Love you Keith.