When I interview people who are new to a certain position or opening a new business, I always ask them who inspired you to do this. Who had the biggest influence on your life? I didn’t have to look far when wanting to write about 50-year educator at Darlington High School, Dave Chellevold and asked about the impact he had on people’s lives.
“Dave is the reason I am in administration today.”
“His advice and conversations immediately inspired me.”
“I am thankful that Dave believed in me.”
Benton School District’s Superintendent Todd Bastian, Darlington Science teacher Brent Whalen and former Darlington High School principal Dan Myers are just a few who shared their memories and stories of Chellevold and what his kindness, wisdom, and character meant to them.
Chellevold came to Darlington in 1969 and took a teaching position at the elementary school in physical education. He transitioned to high school counselor and continued on as high school principal for another 25 years. He then taught education part time at UW-Platteville for 16 years.
Chellevold and his wife of 52 years, Sheri had raised three children in Darlington, Jody, Chad and Doug. Chellevold died on Dec. 15, 2020 from COVID-19. He would have celebrated his 80th birthday on March 9. This tribute is to celebrate what a great human being he was and still is.
“Mr. Chellevold’s dedication to excellence and his countless contributions will be greatly missed,” says Connie McIntyre.
“He loved Darlington High School and he was the ultimate Redbird!! He will be sadly missed,” says Eddie Edwards.
“As a leader, he was courageous in all his decision-making. He courageously pushed the envelope to make people and organizations better regardless of how unpopular the directive may have been,” says Tom Oechslin. “Leaders like that are not always appreciated at the time, but in time, we realize just how fortunate we were to have been influenced by men like Dave. I was on the receiving end and I can tell you, for me, it was gold.”
“Dave’s strong leadership and attention to detail brought back the joy of teaching for me,” says Joan Miller. “Students were important to him, all students, those involved in any type of activities and those who were not. Dave’s ultimate goal was providing Darlington High School students with the best education possible, which he accomplished by supporting students and staff.”
“Dave ran a tight ship at school and if you sent a student down to the office for discipline reasons you knew he would take care of it,” Edwards says.
Edward’s remembered when he first began teaching in Darlington he was a single parent. Chellevold took him around to all the places that were for rent to help him find a place to live.
“I really did appreciate that.”
A memory Edwards has was on the last day of school before summer break and in Edwards’ homeroom class, he turned the volume up extremely loud on the TV as it played the song “I Feel Good” by James Brown and moved it into the hallway.
“All the homerooms had students sticking those heads out the door to see what was going on as my homeroom students and I were dancing around the TV to the music. I thought it was pretty clever—Mr. Chellevold did not!”
As he was taking his noon hour duty with teacher friends Ruegsegger and Richmond, Chellevold came out of nowhere “face red and not happy”.
“His words were, ‘Set the tone for the whole day. How would you like that if I did that before one of your basketball games?’ I asked has it caused a problem. Dave said, ‘well if it would have, you would have heard from me before now’. Then he stormed off—always the professional, always on top of things and was one of the hardest workers I have ever seen.”
“Dave Chellevold was the “Rock” of Darlington High School. He always had your back as a teacher and coach,” said Jalaine Ruegsegger. “I always tried to live by his quote, “attitude will determine your altitude,” and still do.”
Brian Bennett remembered Chellevold as they worked together during Chellevold’s entire Darlington career and his drive for excellence, be it in the classroom, athletic arena or the performing arts stage.
“He believed that hard work would always be rewarded with success. That success would lead to pride in one’s accomplishments, pride in one’s school and community. His high expectations and influences touched many students as well as staff during his years as a Darlington educator,” Bennet said.
Todd Richmond’s fondest memory of Chellevold involved a missing camel at the high school.
“While I remember seeing the six foot camel in the music room when I interviewed for the job, it mysteriously disappeared before I started,” Richmond remembered. Chellevold somehow implicated Richmond with the disappearance, getting the police involved, and having Richmond questioned by staff members and parents as well as clergy.
“This went on for several years and was even brought up in detail at a surprise retirement concert for me in 2011. Always done tongue-in-cheek, it was hilarious and showed what a terrific sense of humor Dave had—a great guy, a great friend and a great boss,” he said.
Chellevold’s knowledge has not only influenced that of Darlington’s school but on many of the school districts all over the country “where people he taught and worked with will be in place for years to come,” Todd Bastian said.
Such is the case with Dan Myers. He says his respect for Chellevold will continue on for the rest of his life after asking Chellevold for advice on what it was like to be a principal.
“He was a very warm and personable individual with a great deal of experience in the activities and someone willing to help mold me into the new position.”
“Without Dave, I may not be in education, and I certainly would not be as skilled.” Chellevold was Brent Whalen’s instructor at UW-Platteville and was his supervisor during his student teaching.
“He came back to my classroom years later and talked to me about the Educational Administration program at UWP and convinced me that it was a good fit. I went through the program, and I’m glad I did. It made me a better teacher, and will help me if I ever go into administration.”
As Connie McIntyre put it, “He would do whatever it took to create the best school in the state. We appreciated a more diverse school because of Mr. Chellevold’s efforts through the years. Countless memories were made and still remain today.”
But not only was his influence on education great, his friendships were even greater. Leona Havens reflected on that relationship she had with both Chellevold and his wife.
“Their family embraced me with open and caring arms. Dave, Sheri, and the Chellevold family have nurtured countless individuals over the years, and this legacy will be a significant part of many people in Darlington and beyond. I am one of the blessed recipients of Dave & Sheri’s friendship.”
This tribute could quite literally go on for days from the countless people who assisted me in contributing their thoughts and memories about Dave Chellevold. This life may no longer be with us but his legacy and his influence will live on.
Havens said it best. “We all will continue to celebrate Dave Chellevold now and forever.”