‘The journey is my memory’: Lake Mills educator and coach retires after 33 years

Published 10:00 pm Monday, June 3, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Lake Mills Community School recently celebrated the retirement of teacher and coach Jim Boehmer. He is a bit of a local legend in the city of Lake Mills for his dedicated work to the community.

Raised in Osage, Iowa, Boehmer participated in competitive sports from a young age. In high school he played football, wrestling and baseball. Boehmer describes himself as “super competitive.” Competing gave him a thrill he said he wanted to continue after high school was over. 

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He attended William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and earned his teaching degree. 

During his senior year in college, Boehmer interviewed and was offered a job as a social studies teacher at Lake Mills Community School. When offered the job, the superintendent also asked Boehmer if he would coach girls softball, and Boehmer accepted.

“Sometimes, it’s the smallest of decisions that certainly impact the rest of your life, and that was one of them,” Boehmer said. “In my head I thought, ‘Well, I’m not going to coach softball very long,’” 

Boehmer began teaching and coaching in Lake Mills in 1991, and has been there ever since. His wife, Angie Boehmer, also teaches at Lake Mills Community School and is heavily involved with coaching as well.

“When I came to Lake Mills,” he said, “volleyball had had some success, but our softball program had been in the tank.” 

However, Boehmer said he wanted to change that.

“I had high expectations right from the start,” he said. 

Throughout his time coaching, he decided he wanted to change the mentality around girls’ sports so they could have the same level of challenge and competition that was expected of male athletes. 

“[I was] really trying to stress to girls they need to be strong-willed, they need to have self confidence, they need to have respect for themselves and they can do great things,” Boehmer said. “We had some great success in our volleyball and our softball program.”

Boehmer continued coaching girls sports throughout his career. He coached volleyball for 31 years, and was the head coach of softball for 17 years. He also had 20 years of experience coaching girls wrestling in addition to some time in middle school girls track and boys golf. 

Boehmer said his favorite part of coaching is showing people how to be better in their sport and helping them reach goals they didn’t believe they could reach. A highlight of the school year was always state tournaments. 

“But for me, really, the greatest memories were just the reflection of the team and the individuals when the season was over,” he said. “Some of my best memories was just those days when the season ended. They were filled with sadness, but just the joy that came from that sadness, meaning … what we had was so special, we’re sad that it’s over. And that’s a compliment beyond recognition.”

Boehmer received several recognitions during his coaching career, mainly through the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union. He served on their board of directors for eight years. He also was elected president, a goal he had wanted to complete since the beginning of his coaching career. In 2020 the Iowa High School Athletic Directors Association named him as the Iowa High School Athletic Director of the Year. In 2023, he received the IGHSAU Volleyball Golden Plaque of Distinction. His goal now is to be in the IGHSAU Hall of Fame, which he needs to be in retirement to get. 

Boehmer is very involved in the community. He is the longest-serving member of the fire department and runs the fire department’s brewery, 5 Alarm Brewing Co., with people he said who used to be his students. 

Boehmer said that the theme for his retirement speech was “five boxes.” This is because he had a goal of fitting the items he was bringing home from his office into five boxes. While sorting through things, he said he found many pictures of himself with former students and their families. 

“I don’t think teaching can just be a job. Teaching has to be a way of life,” said Boehmer. 

When asked what his favorite memory from coaching was, he replied, “Just the fact that you enjoyed the journey is my memory.”

One former student who has become a work colleague is Brook Christianson, who just finished her 10th year as the Lake Mills art teacher. She has been an active part of the volleyball program for 10 years as well. As a student, Boehmer was Christianson’s volleyball and softball coach.

“Jim truly has given so much to the Bulldog community,” she said. “Not just in the classroom and sports fields, but to the entire community. Lake Mills is a special place and from day one, Jim felt at home and took his role as educator and coach seriously. … He has shown me what perseverance looks like and is an example for all of us looking to have a great impact on the success of our students. He truly has cared for each and every student and athlete that has walked these halls and it shows. He will be greatly missed!”

Now that he is retired, Boehmer hopes to spend his free time traveling and spending time with his grandson. He plans to continue being active in the Lake Mills Area School District, the fire department and at 5 Alarm Brewing Co. He also is going to do some remote work in sales.

“I get bored fast,” he said. “So I want my schedule full … I’m going to pack as much life in as I can every day.”