LAKEWOOD RANCH — As the final bell at Nolan Middle School rang last week, releasing students for summer vacation, band teacher Maynard Erickson was as calm as he’d be on any other school day.
“It’s hard to explain your last day of school after 43 years,” Erickson said. “I can tell you, it’s a nice feeling. It’s surreal. I don’t know what to expect.”
After spending 21 years teaching music in Illinois, Erickson came to Florida in 1988, first taking root in Manatee County Public Schools at Bayshore High School. But the majority of his Florida teaching career has been spent in the East County with 13 years at Braden River Middle School and the last six years at Nolan Middle School.
Fellow staff members at Nolan sent Erickson off with a special retirement party at the end of school June 9. His wife, Linda, and son, Thomas, who came all the way from Lithuania for his father’s retirement, made sure to attend.
Faculty and staff described Erickson as charismatic, caring, methodical and compassionate and as an expert in his field.
“It will be very difficult to find someone of his capabilities and perseverance,” Assistant Principal Nancy Swanson said. “We have one of the best middle school band programs in the whole county. It’s hard to replace excellence.”
Erickson, who has played in community bands and other groups over the years, grew up on a crop farm in Illinois. He began learning to play trumpet in fifth grade. And although he was set up to become a farmer after graduating high school, Erickson had other plans.
“Out of six generations of farmers, I’m the first not to farm,” he said with a chuckle. “It was my music in high school that made me feel I could go on (to college). I always new I wanted to be a music teacher because I didn’t think I was meant to be a performer — that’s a nice way of saying I wasn’t good enough.”
The veteran band director’s teaching philosophy is simple: Do whatever is best for the kids. And in doing so, Erickson has created a structured environment in which students are asked to follow the rules while enjoying in his unique sense of humor.
“In the process, they should have fun,” Erickson said. “I like to kid around. Most of the kids catch on.”
The greatest joy of the job, he said, is to see his students succeed.
“You always want to see your kids do well and make progress,” Erickson said. “Hopefully, it becomes part of their lives. You’ve got to love kids, or you won’t survive.”
Erickson and his wife plan to move to Vermont so they can be closer to their daughter and two of their grandchildren.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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