Finneman hanging up his tools at Havre High


Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Bruce Finneman, a wood shop instructor and Havre High School teacher for 29 years, works Wednesday with students during one of his final days before retirement.

After 33 years as a teacher in Montana schools, Havre High School industrial arts teacher Bruce Finneman is retiring June 5.

"I'm a little anxious, but I think I'm ready for it," he sid.

Finneman graduated from Northern Montana College - now Montana State University-Northern - with a bachelor's degree in industrial arts education and a minor in physical education in 1977.

He did his student teaching in Rudyard, then started teaching in Poplar from 1977 to 1978, then went to Chester for a year before quitting teaching. He said that he quit teaching because, at the time, he didn't know if he had what it took to be a teacher and was burnt out from coaching a number of sports teams in Chester.

He said that while in Chester a local contractor asked if he would be interested in job as a carpenter, which he accepted. He worked construction for four years before moving to Sydney in 1982, and returned to teaching until 1984. He first came to Havre High School in 1986, not as a teacher but working as the night janitor. He added that he worked that job for about a year before he started working for Fort Belknap College - now Aaniiih Nakoda College - for three years before becoming a teacher at Havre High School in 1990.

Finneman said that what drew him to Havre was his wife, Pam Solomon - and together they have five children and nine grandchildren.

He originally got into teaching because he wanted to be a wrestling coach, and at the time most high school sports coaches were teachers, Finneman said. He added that he was a wrestler when he was attending Terry High School - he graduated in 1972 - and that was one of his favorite things in high school besides shop class.

He said he wasn't the best student, but enjoyed his shop teacher, Lyle Swenson's, class.

He said he has no big plans other than to work for Korb Construction over the summer.

Finneman said he has been working for Dan Korb during the summers for the past 27 years while school is out of session.

"He takes pretty good care of me for an old man," Finneman said.

Working construction and having a background in the industry, he said, helped him a lot with better teaching his students, especially when he was teaching construction technology class.

He said that he tells his students that they need to understand the value of hard work, adding that he has a sign above the shop sink, "Nothing is finer than the good tired feeling one gets after a hard job well done."

Building a relationship with his students was a very important part of his job, he said. He added that he enjoyed seeing the excitement of the students faces when they were working on their projects or when they finished their projects.

"So many projects over the years," he said. "... I like them to appreciate that they worked hard to get projects done."

Over the years at Havre High School, he said, the students have made a variety of great pieces, such as gun cabinets, desks and rocking chairs. He added that he was worried when the students suggested building rocking chairs because of their complexity, but they ended up doing a great job.

"I enjoyed the kids and the camaraderie of a faculty," Finneman said. "That's good, too. It's been a pretty good stable job for me."

He added that, while at Havre High School, he has had a good relationship with the other teachers at the school.

Being a teacher for 29 years in Havre, one of the things he enjoys is seeing his former students growing up and being successful in town, he said. They aren't all carpenters, but they are good workers.

"I'm glad to see some of them doing well," he said.

Finneman said that, after his last day, he expects to stay busy with stuff. His wife does want to travel, he added, and they are thinking about traveling the West Coast. He said that he has some family in California and he would like to see them sometime.

He said that, although he will miss the school shop, he is looking forward to spending some time with his horses. He said he has been an avid rider since he was little, even competing in team roping competitions in rodeos when he was younger.

"It's good therapy for me to just get on a horse and ride," he said.

He said that he has been lucky to have the opportunities that he has had and appreciates the years he has spent as an educator for Havre.

"It's been a good job," he said.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry


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