Hook, line, and sinker – Lyle students made the best catch

Published 6:00 pm Friday, May 24, 2024

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By Lyle Principal Cori McRae 

For the Austin Daily Herald

Just a short 15-minute drive down Highway 218, you will find a small school with big ideas and incredible individuals inside. Lyle sits on the border of Minnesota and Iowa, a small community with an incredible amount of support for their school. There may not be a coffee shop, fast food restaurant, or shopping available, but the gas is cheap, the farmers are friendly, and the educators want to provide life lessons at every opportunity. 

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For two highly respected educators, Mr. Brian Hagan, and Mr. Brock VaDeer, the biggest thing missing in Lyle a lake! These two teachers share similar students (high schoolers), but Hagan being a high school history teacher on one end of the building and VaDeer being the K-12 physical education teacher in the gymnasium and outside, they share a common passion and a common interest: fishing and students. 

A little over a month ago, these two gentlemen produced an idea to begin requesting donations for fishing supplies. Their goal: to provide an opportunity for our students to be taught how to fish and to get them to the nearest lake. These two reached out via Lyle Public School’s Facebook page seeking donations from community members and families of Lyle School. Our community may be small, but the families of Lyle 100% support any and every cause presented to them. The donations came pouring in! Old rods, new rods, small and large, tackle boxes, fishing lures, and fishing wire. Families commented they had fishing supplies sitting in storage and more than willing to spread the joy! 

Hagan and VaDeer’s goal was to gather the supplies during the remainder of this school year, organize items this summer, and begin teaching students in grades K-12 the basic understanding, safety precautions, and the how-to for fishing next school year. 

Our community members loved this idea so much, they encouraged Hagan and VaDeer to reach out to Runnings and Scheels inquiring about potential donations for this cause. It is not a class. It is not a club. There are no grades given, no credits earned. It is two passionate educators who want to put fishing rods in the hands of our students and give them an experience many of them have never had. 

Runnings in Austin loved this idea and were very willing to provide materials and supplies for Lyle students to experience the joys of fishing. Some of our high school juniors went to Runnings after some of their PSEO classes at Riverland Community and Technical College and picked up the donations. 

The next day, Mr. VaDeer, and his children, who attend Lyle as well, drove to Scheels Sporting Goods in Rochester and were blown away by the donations Scheels provided. They were ecstatic about teaching students how to fish and donated tons of brand-new fishing poles as well as other supplies. 

The Lyle School Facebook page continued to receive comments and private messages from community members checking in on our progress, asking what we still needed, and expressing their excitement for our students. They could not wait to see pictures and hear about the first trip to the lake! 

Due to the overwhelming support from our community, school families, Runnings in Austin, and Scheels in Rochester, Hagan and VaDeer were able to begin preparing our 4th grade class with the basic education of the equipment and the safety requirements needed to successfully enjoy fishing. 

On Thursday, May 23,, fourth grade students, teachers, high school student volunteers along with Mr. Hagan and Mr. VaDeer loaded the bus and headed to East Side Lake in Austin for the first fishing experience. Thanks to all the donations, every single student was able to have their own fishing pole the entire two hours on the lake. Students were spread all along the shoreline, placed throughout the dock, provided high school helpers and staff so students would have support at their fingertips. 

It didn’t take long for our students to get it figured out before the first celebratory scream was heard across the lake! Two students caught their first fish at the same time! 4th graders Camille and Carma shared excited squeals as they held onto their fish, holding them with pride, smiles large, giving air kisses! Before you knew it, another joyous holler could be heard coming from the dock as Mia caught her first fish! Principal McRae was running back and forth trying to capture pictures and celebrate with students as they became real fishermen. 

One by one, students in the class began catching fish of all sizes. They learned the importance of how to properly hold the fish, remove the hook carefully (with the help from adults and our high school volunteers with experience in fishing) and to release back into East Side Lake. No fish were kept. No fish died during our fishing trip. All fishing was catch and release. There were also ZERO injuries during this experience, which shows how our educators prepared our students and provided all the safety needs and rules of fishing! 

So many students began baiting their own hooks with plump worms! They were learning how to properly cast their line into the lake while being aware of their surroundings and their classmates. They cheered each other on, celebrating when someone caught a fish, and encouraged each other when they reeled in their line empty handed again, and 

again, and again. Students who are typically shy in the classroom, reserved in their friendships, hesitant to try new things in front of their peers became leaders. Confidence was bursting out of students as they caught on to the skill of fishing. This became so much more than just fishing. 

Austin citizens enjoying a day at the park, and county employees taking care of the grasslands around all stopped to enjoy the scene before them: young students learning how to fish on a gorgeous afternoon. Our students were kind, respectful, and fully engaged in the experience. Many students said this was the “best day of their life,” while others begged teachers to stay longer or to come back the next day. 

This is the beginning of a vision shared by two educators with a passion for fishing all while providing students with life experiences! Next school year, Hagan and VaDeer share a goal of providing a fishing trip experience to more grade levels as well as providing summer opportunities for students interested in participating. 

This goal has quickly become a reality because of our community, Runnings, and Scheels providing our students with the materials needed to have this hands-on experience that will provide a healthy hobby in their futures. 

All donations made will remain with Lyle school for all future fishing opportunities for our students. Our district is beyond grateful for the continued support that is shown toward our school. 

If you are interested in donating fishing supplies to our cause, please reach out to Lyle Public School at 507-325-2201 or visit our Facebook Page: Lyle Public School (Lyle, MN). Please visit our Facebook page for more pictures from our first trip to East Side Lake!