- Big Lake Schools
Three Generations Making a Difference
This school year has been special for one group of Big Lake educators: Three generations of Bachmann-Proms are all working within the district.
Three generations. Four schools. One family. Four people who were inspired by those who came before them to work with kids, serve others, and make a difference of their own.
Ryan Prom teaches civics at Big Lake High School. His wife, Sara, is a speech language pathologist at Liberty Elementary. Their son, Alex, is a full-time building sub at Big Lake Middle School. Sara’s dad, Gary Bachmann, is temporarily teaching music at Independence Elementary STEM.
It started with Ryan, who student taught at Big Lake High School and never looked back. He decided to teach social studies when he was a seventh grader, and got a job in Big Lake in 2000 after graduating from Saint Cloud State University. He has been here the past 23 years.
Sara’s story isn’t as linear: She fell into speech pathology almost by accident. In college, she had two choices for her final elective class: Intro to Art or Intro to Communications Disorders. She inevitably chose the latter (claiming she has no artistic ability) and fell in love with the class immediately. Sara knew when she walked out of that first class that she had found her calling. She started working for Monticello Schools in 1998, after holding a few jobs prior, and met Ryan on her first day. They eventually married, and in 2003, a speech pathologist position opened up at Big Lake’s newly-opened Liberty Elementary. Sara made the switch to align their schedules.
Gary came to Big Lake Schools after retiring. And retiring again, from a 50+ year career teaching music and in school administration. “Retirement parties are the best,” he joked.
In the early 2000s, Gary retired from being a long-time principal in Fairmont and moved to Zimmerman with his wife, Jane, to be near family. A few years into retirement, ISD 728 called him, wondering if he wanted to teach high school music in Zimmerman. He ended up working in the district for five years.
After that, Gary couldn’t stay out of the classroom, and he started picking up occasional sub jobs at Big Lake Schools. “I ended up just missing kids,” he said. This August, Independence Elementary STEM needed a music teacher. Gary agreed to fill in temporarily, and now plans on finishing the year.
Alex is the only one who grew up in Big Lake, and graduated from Big Lake High School in 2018. He earned his undergraduate degree in Human Rights Law in 3 years, and spent a year in Scotland where he earned his masters degree.
After moving home in September 2022, and job openings in his field were limited, Alex took inspiration from his family and began to sub at Big Lake Schools. He thought it would help him prepare for his potential career as a college professor. “I’ve really enjoyed teaching alongside those that mentored me growing up,” he said. “Learning more about the teachers who ‘raised me’ has been really enjoyable.” In January, the Big Lake Middle School recruited him to be a full-time building sub.
The family legacy in education runs deep. Ryan’s mom, Jan, was a paraeducator in Monticello for 30+ years. Gary’s wife was a phy-ed teacher turned special-ed coordinator. Gary’s dad was a bus driver, and Gary’s mom taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the 1930s. They grew up hearing stories about education’s impact, and now see it firsthand.
“Working together at the same time provides us the opportunity to experience and share situations through different perspectives, which comes with different ages,” Sara stated. “At the end of the day, we all want to be positive role models and attempt to be so by collaborating with one another. It’s a really special feeling,” Sara stated.
While they each followed their own unique path, the Bachmann-Prom family shares similar passions and values.
"[Our family has] really instilled in us service to others, being good role models, and putting others before ourselves,” Sara said. “And those are all values teachers share,” Alex added.
"A couple of generations have taught me to enjoy being around kids,” Alex said.
Ryan often keeps in touch with past students, and cherishes every interaction: From attending their weddings to receiving random emails of appreciation, they remind him of his “why.” He once even accompanied a former student to a Marine Corps leadership conference in Washington DC, who chose Ryan, out of everyone, to be his mentor.
“Those are the kind of things we live for,” Ryan said.
Sara has many similar stories. She was once shadowed by a former student’s sister, who was so moved by everything Sara did for her sibling, that she was inspired to take up a career in speech pathology, too.
“That is what makes us come back every day; feeling like we are making a difference. It keeps us going. It keeps us young,” Sara said.
These reminders, and seeing their students flourish, motivate them to be the best for their students, who become like a second family.
“I tell my students they are my family, because I treat them like my own children,” Sara said. “I think about them all the time. It’s a part of who you become. You want everyone to be happy and successful, and I think it is pretty neat that we have a hand in that.”
Both of Sara and Ryan’s two boys went through Big Lake Schools, and the family appreciates the many opportunities they have had: from sports to in-school college classes to Poetry Out Loud/Knowledge Bowl/Musicals/etc. Their youngest son, Isaiah, is currently a senior at Big Lake High School.
“I think that we (our family) have something pretty special,” Sara said. “I think we all enjoy being role models and helping students and their families in the Big Lake schools.” The Bachmann-Proms are thankful to live out a life full of purpose, together, with their real and their school families. Alex summed it up perfectly. “Big Lake is home.”