Familiar face leads Cloquet Community Education

Erin Bates of Cloquet is the new director for Cloquet's Community Education program. Bates is pictured near the pool at Cloquet Middle School, one of the areas used by the program. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Familiar face leads Cloquet Community Education

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Erin Bates, 54, has been a member of the Cloquet community for many years and served as a coordinator for the city’s Kid’s Corner program until 2019.

Bates said her new position almost seems to be a part of “the circle of life.” She said she recently encountered someone she knew from her time at Kid’s Corner, only now the person was no longer a child, but a teenager beginning driver’s education.

“It helps that I’m already familiar with community members, with the community, with the school system,” Bates said.

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Bates, a Duluth native, was hired by the district on Dec. 14, 2020, to serve as the new community education director. She replaces Ruth Reeves who retired from the position in December.

Bates came from the Duluth Community Education program, where she served as Community Buildings and Program Coordinator.

She applied for the job because she felt it was time to take the “next step” in her career.

Erin Bates of Cloquet is the new director for Cloquet's Community Education program. She comes from a position within Duluth Community Education. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Erin Bates of Cloquet is the new director for Cloquet’s Community Education program. She comes from a position within Duluth Community Education. (Clint Austin / [email protected])

Michael Cary, Cloquet School District superintendent, said officials interviewed several candidates, but decided to go with Bates based on her history with the program and her familiarity with the community.

“We … felt her combination of experience and knowledge of the community was a strong fit for the position,” he said.

Bates attended the University of Minnesota Duluth, where she majored in physical education. She earned her master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and her community education director license from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

In addition to her experience in community education, Bates said she also spent about 20 years working in parks and recreation, which added variety to her background she believes will be helpful in her new role.

“Community education actually is a very multifaceted type position,” Bates said. “We do everything from early childhood classes to adult enrichment to after-school opportunities for kids.”

Cary said officials are giving Bates time to adjust to the role. However, one of their main goals for Cloquet Community Education is to maintain programming, while also looking for future opportunities to serve the community as it transitions beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pool at Cloquet Middle School is used by Cloquet's Community Education program. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

The pool at Cloquet Middle School is used by Cloquet’s Community Education program. (Clint Austin / [email protected])

Bates said one of the first items on her agenda is to take inventory of how the program changed over the past year and begin to build the program. She would also like to continue opportunities for online or physically distanced classes and events.

The program recently restarted its aquatic program, implementing COVID-19 guidelines and procedures at the pool. The program is designed to cater to every age through classes as well as a swim schedule for certain age groups.

“The importance [of community education] has grown,” Bates said. “It is one area of our community where people do get those social connections.”

While Bates is grateful for the connection offered to community members through the various activities and online classes, she acknowledged that classes held online require participants to have certain technology and knowledge. Because of this, the community education website offers links to tutorials on how to use the technology.

Bates said another helpful tool during the pandemic has been collaborating with her colleagues in community education programs statewide through meetings. Bates recently distributed an online seminar she created about the basics of geocaching to the group and said sharing resources has been key during the pandemic.

“It’s really great to … participate in those meetings because it gives you different things to think about or try,” Bates said. “We’re helping each other out this year.”

Bates also wants to focus on keeping the community education program functioning regardless of circumstances.

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