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Bob Lind, Published August 26 2012

Lind: Beloved Mrs. MK won’t be forgotten

When school reopens for the year at Highview Middle School in New Brighton, Minn., the excitement for some students and faculty members will be tempered by sadness. That’s because Mrs. MK won’t be there.

Mrs. MK is what the kids called Jodi Ann Maurer Knudson, the eighth-grade teacher they dearly loved.

But then, Jodi loved them. And she loved teaching, something that was in her blood when she was a kid herself growing up in Fargo.

Her parents, John and Sharon Maurer, Fargo, say that when Jodi was in second grade, she’d take her Madison School classmates into the basement in her home and teach them things like English, manners and how to help others.

This led to a fine teaching career.

But in 2009, Jodi died unexpectedly in her Coon Rapids, Minn., home at age 38.

Top student teacher

It’s been almost three years since Jodi’s death, but people can’t forget her.

One of them is Mike Tweeton, of Apple Valley, Minn., a 1964 Concordia College graduate who taught English at West Fargo High School from 1964 to 1966 and who was Jodi’s supervisor when she was a student teacher out of St. Cloud (Minn.) State University

It was Mike who told Neighbors about Jodi, saying, “She was the best student teacher I’ve supervised in 10 years of doing this.”

‘A natural way’

Jodi taught swimming and was a lifeguard at Fargo’s Madison and Island Park pools. She graduated from North High School, then attended North Dakota State University, Minnesota State University Moorhead and St. Cloud State.

She was popular. “She had a natural way with anybody,” her mother says. “Kids, older people, anybody.”

She always was concerned about other people. While a teenager, she learned of a neighborhood woman who was being beaten by her husband. Jodi brought her home and hid her car so the husband wouldn’t know where she was. Her parents housed the woman a few days until the husband moved away.

Jodi’s father says Jodi once taught in a Twin Cities school in a neighborhood so rough the doors had to stay locked. “But that didn’t bother her at all,” he says. “She just wanted to help the kids.”

She had a secret club for students in her New Brighton school. Its mission was to help people, such as by shoveling snow or cleaning windows. But they had to do it when nobody was watching so no one knew who did it.

“It was like ‘paying it forward,’ ” Sharon says. “But her emphasis was to do good things without taking credit.”

Promoting Fargo

Another thing: Jodi “was an ambassador for Fargo,” her dad says. “She was always talking it up, and she had Fargo things on display in her classroom.”

Jodi got several people, including fellow teachers and her superintendent, to participate in the Fargo Marathon. She didn’t run it herself, but she got them started and now they regularly participate in the annual event.

In 1998 Jodi married Joe Knudson, of Anoka, Minn. They had two sons: Sam, now 9, and Max, 6.

Jodi was a teacher for her boys, too. She didn’t let them watch much TV. Rather, she taught them many things and, above all, how to serve others. When she delivered Meals on Wheels, she brought them along to help and to learn.

Many at funeral

More than 1,000 attended her funeral at Zion Lutheran Church in Anoka. Many of them were her students, past and present.

Her father says some of the kids talked to him and his wife about her. “Junior high kids don’t like to talk a lot, especially to older folks, but these kids wanted to talk to us about her,” he says.

Thoughts of her had a common theme: She was a caring person.

One student said, “She understood you a lot when you were having a bad day.”

A teacher in Jodi’s school said that one day a girl came into the office crying. When asked why, she said Mrs. MK had just told her how great a student she was becoming and how well she was doing, and that no one had ever told her that before. “Evidently it just sort of overwhelmed her,” the teacher said.

Autopsies failed to find the cause of Jodi’s death. But her mother knows this: “She believed in God, and God was ready for her to come home.”

Meanwhile, Joe has developed a meaningful annual practice. On her birth date every year – July 19 – he and the two boys do something special, like picking up trash, or something else he knows she’d do to be helpful, and they do it quietly, without attracting attention. Then they have cake.

Joe plans to continue this until the boys are old enough to do it on their own.

It’s a way to commemorate the kind of person she was – one her students fondly called Mrs. MK.

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