Jon Rondestvedt had an intense love of literature and held nothing back as he shared that passion with students in Robbinsdale Area Schools, where he taught English and humanities for 34 years.
Rondestvedt climbed on desks while reciting Shakespeare and used his booming voice and facial expressions to capture the attention of his students at the former Robbinsdale Junior High and later at Armstrong High School.
"He was entertaining, funny and totally in love with the content he taught," said Kaia Hirt, a 1992 Armstrong graduate. "I didn't like school, but he made me want to come to class. Kids who didn't love English ended up loving English."
Rondestvedt, 81, of Northfield, died Nov. 18 of complications of COVID-19 at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
Rondestvedt gained a love for history and English from a grade school teacher in his hometown of Hustler, Wis., and became an avid reader, said his son Stephen of Chisago City, Minn.
After graduating valedictorian in 1957 from New Lisbon High School in Wisconsin, Rondestvedt was the third generation to attend St. Olaf College in Northfield. He graduated in 1961 with an English degree and began teaching in Robbinsdale. There he meticulously prepared for every class and every day taught from bell to bell, Stephen said.
"When he taught, he knew that play inside and out, and so did they," his son said. "That was his gift: to instill a love for what they were learning."
At Armstrong, the energetic Rondestvedt coached speech teams, announced football games and led homecoming parades.
"The idea of inspiring every student that desired to succeed, that desired to learn, that desired to grow was really a gift of his," said former Armstrong teacher Steve Urbanski.
Hirt said Rondestvedt spent countless hours with her and other students polishing speeches and making them feel special. When she became a teacher, as many of his former students did, "I wanted to be Mr. Rondestvedt in someone else's life," she said.
In retirement, Rondestvedt co-founded the Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning in Park Rapids, Minn., served on the board of and taught courses in the Cannon Valley Elder Collegium and received three National Endowment for the Humanities grants.
Besides his son, Rondestvedt is survived by his wife, Jeanette, of Northfield, two other sons, David of Chisago City and Paul of Eden Prairie, a daughter, Ann Cazaban of Minneapolis, a brother Harold of Elroy, Wis., and two sisters, Sonja Van Wyk of Minnetonka and Kirsten Skaer of Florida.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768