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Looking back on his legacy: Scott Tellgren leaves his mark on Springville Elementary School

TAKE A LOAD OFF –– Scott Tellgren poses with some of the SES students on a bench inscribed with “Tellgren’s Terrace,” to be placed in a new educational garden at the school.
Scott Tellgren, the recently-retired principal of Springville Elementary School, reads a book to his students, dressed as Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, in a photo his wife Betsy Tellgren called one of her favorites. One of the lines read, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” According to Betsy and Tellgren’s former Assistant Principal Marcole Feuz, many students, staff and friends who worked with Scott Tellgren were left with plenty to smile about.

Tellgren’s road to becoming principal was a circuitous one. He majored in business in college, working for the Rochester Redwings to put himself through school. He coached soccer at St. John Fisher and, from there, was recruited to work for the Maine Guides, a minor league baseball team. Next, he became affiliated with the University of Southern Maine, as the men’s soccer coach and later, the assistant men’s basketball coach.

Betsy Tellgren took the credit for bringing the family to Western New York. “We met at a wedding in Maine. He’s seven years older than I am,” Tellgren explained. “We met in June and got married in August of the following year.” She convinced her husband to move to Western New York where she was working, and the couple has lived in the area, ever since.

Scott Tellgren started substitute teaching in business classes and that, Betsy Tellgren said, is when he discovered he enjoyed teaching. He went back to school to get his teaching certification and ended up with a position in Little Valley when the couple was living in Williamsville with their infant daughter. Unhappy with the distance, Betsy Tellgren said she got out the map and found that Springville was a “reasonable distance” between the two.

“We moved to Springville and have been living here ever since, 21 years now. Our sons were born here and it’s the only town they’ve ever known. It’s a great place to bring up kids,” she said.

Scott Tellgren got a job with the Springville-Griffith Institute School District as its technology integrator, in which he was “instrumental in bringing computers to this district,” said Betsy Tellgren.

He then served as SES principal for 12 years until he submitted his official retirement this past May.

Tellgren instituted many changes at the elementary school, including the construction of a new playground, organization of a 50th anniversary celebration for the school and a host of other programs and events.

Feuz, the current SES principal, explained that her predecessor’s contributions to technology were “revolutionary,” including instituting computers in classrooms, using technology as a teaching tool and writing grant applications for new technology tools.

“He implemented podcasts at the school,” said Feuz, of one of Tellgren’s many contributions. “He started televising announcements and made the kids really take ownership of the programs.”

In addition, Tellgren spoke at a variety of conferences about both education and technology, including the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education and the School Administrators Association for New York State.

Feuz, who called Tellgren her “mentor,” said that his contributions fell both within the scope of his responsibilities as principal and outside his job description.

“I was the assistant principal to his principal for three years and we had a wonderful relationship. He always kept the students as his best interest, no matter what. He was so wise and taught me all his practical knowledge. We communicated on a daily basis, and I have the utmost respect for him,” said Feuz.

“He always had his ducks in a row. He’d come into a meeting without any notes, and I’d always be afraid he wasn’t prepared, but it was all up in his mind,” said Feuz. “He was very ethical in his decision-making; always had everything planned out in his mind and had the right thing to say ready to go. He could back up his decisions. Scott has a heck of a memory. He never wrote anything down, which makes him a hard act to follow.”

As an administrator, Tellgren worked with many current staff members to help them learn the ropes, acting as a mentor to “more people than I can count,” according to his wife.

“He worked with Bob Barnes, who was his mentor until he retired and Scott took his position. He mentored a lot of people who wanted to get their administration certification,” said Betsy Tellgren. “He did a great job mentoring and preparing people for what they needed to do, as [administrators]. Of course, he always had the final say, but he told people why, if he didn’t agree with them. He was very diplomatic and always wanted other people to succeed.”

She added that her husband “always followed the rules,” even though he had fun doing it.

“He believed in rules and always followed the rules. Both with our own children and at the school, he taught them that you do what you’re supposed to do. He held them accountable and taught them that you have to be responsible for your actions,” said Tellgren.

Despite what Feuz called his “very proper and professional” attitude, both women said that Scott Tellgren knew how to have fun at work.

“He had the office next to mine and that’s how I originally got to know him. He loved a good joke,” Feuz said, recalling the themed Halloween costumes the two donned each year.

“For our 100th day of school celebration, he would wear this patchwork coat and have the students count all the patches,” she added.

“The great thing about working in the elementary school is that the kids still love you,” Betsy Tellgren said. “He was very involved with the kids. He had different special outfits for every occasion. He was a train lover and set up a train set at the school every Christmas. The kids loved watching it go around.

“He really loved the kids,” Tellgren added. “He wouldn’t be retiring if he had a choice, but his health didn’t allow him to continue.”

Whether it was taking pictures of the students during field days and special events or cheering them on from the sidelines, Feuz and Tellgren both said that the former principal “was always there” for the kids, both his own three children and those he oversaw at SES.

His three children, Lauren, 23, Erik, 21 and Mark, 18, were involved in soccer throughout their childhoods, and Scott Tellgren was always the “dad on the sidelines,” when he was not coaching with Springville Youth Incorporated, said Feuz.

“He ran a soccer program when Lauren was in third grade and was very involved in the kids’ travel soccer program,” Betsy Tellgren added.

In his personal life, Scott Tellgren was “very active,” according to both Feuz and his wife. He rode his bike all over town and took a bike trip to Rochester and back for several years. In addition, he won third place in cross country skiing in the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid.

“Scott was always physically fit and active,” Feuz said. “It seems like he never stopped moving.”

An avid photographer, Tellgren took hundreds of pictures of the students at SES.

“Whenever there was an event here at the school, he was always out there with his camera, snapping away,” said Feuz, with a smile.

Several of Tellgren’s photos won awards at the Erie County Fair and the Cattaraugus County Fair and many are still displayed at SES.

“The love of his family and his country were probably the two things you noticed most about him. [His family means] everything to him. You can tell he really adores his wife and kids,” Feuz said. “This was his favorite time of year. It must be really hard for him not to be able to be here and see the kids off.

Although Tellgren is no longer able to physically be there for the students at SES, Feuz said that his legacy will continue on.

“We are in the process of putting together a garden. It started while he was still here and, in his honor, we have decided to name it Tellgren’s Terrace,” she said. “It’s going to be an outdoor education garden that we can use year-round to remember him by.

“Before he left, he took me aside and told me that one of the things that got him out the door was knowing that I would be here in his place. It’s not that we always agreed on everything, but he knew he was leaving [the school] in good hands.”

Betsy Tellgren agreed that it is hard for her husband to not be able to be there for the students he loved, but that she knows he has left his mark both on SES and the district, as a whole.

“He did a lot for the school,” Betsy Tellgren said. “Scott is a great man and I love him dearly.”

Scott Tellgren’s chapter at Springville Elementary School has ended, but Feuz said she is sure his legacy will go on in, his photographs in the lobby display cases, the playground on which students play and Tellgren’s Terrace, where the kids will learn about gardening and the environment.

“He won’t ever be forgotten,” she said, with a smile. “He’s been a wonderful mentor, principal and friend.”

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