Remembering a teacher, colleague and friend


New Prague Middle School students and teachers began their last day of school on Thursday, May 30, with some smiles and tears during a memorial for Matt Shetka. The group gathered in front of the school, 721 Central Ave. N, to remember the well-known teacher who coached gymnastics and golf. Shetka died in early December of an apparent heart attack.

"He was a very passionate teacher and coach," said outgoing principal Tim Dittberner, who will become superintendent of the New Prague Area Schools in July.

The ceremony included the dedication of a tree on the front lawn of the school. A stone plaque will also be placed in front of the tree this summer. Dustin Drummer, seventh and eighth grade mathematics teacher, presented the plaque. His fatherin- law and brother-in-law, Jules and Jake Blom, respectively, of Minnesota Cut Stone of Fridley, made the plaque. "It’s a small token for what he did," said Drummer.

Students had written down many of their memories of Shetka. Several were read during the memorial. "He was an awesome teacher," "He made social fun," and "He will be in our hearts, we will always love you." were among the comments. Other memories included how during the last part of class, they listened to Mexican rap music, or that Shetka was a happy person. One student said that while he/she was shy, Shetka encouraged them to be more outgoing and it showed them that someone cared. Teachers also remembered Shetka. A colleague remembered he was a "voracious reader" and often recommended books his students could read.

Dittberner said that teachers teach and often try to make a difference in their students’ lives. "He loved the kids in his classes. He also loved his colleagues," said Dittberner, who asked for a moment of silence.

During the ceremony the middle school choir sang "Amazing Grace" and "Hall of Fame."

"Whenever you drive by or walk through the doors into this school, remember the good things," said Dittberner.