Norwegian Dancers Directors

With the SHS Norwegian Dancers being part of Stoughton High School, the group has been fortunate to have had District employees willing to serve as group direcctors. There have been three directors over the sixty year life of the SHS Norwegian Dancers, Jeanne Reek, Polly
Goepfert, and the current Director Staci Heimsoth.

Jeanne Reek - March, 1953 - June, 1999

School Superintendent Albert Moldenhauer came up with the idea to start the Norwegian Dancers in 1952. He asked Jeanne Reek to oversee this new group. For the next 46 years it grew from there under the leadership of Jeanne Reek. Sadly she is no longer with us, so she could not write her own bio. She did however put together a book in 2001 about the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers. The following bio was gathered from that book and combined with memories of those who knew her.

"...Jeanne Reek, of English descent, grew up during the depression years on a dairy farm in the Walworth-Lake Geneva area of Wisconsin. It was this upbringing that afforded her such a strong work ethic. She went on to graduate from UW La Crosse with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and then earned her master’s degree from UW Madison. Fresh out of graduate school, while teaching PE to grades Kindergarten thru 12th grade and leading five extracurricular groups, in the fall of 1952, she was approached by the superintendent of schools, Albert Moldenhauer. His request was for Ms. Reek to begin a Norwegian Dancer group at the high school to promote good relations between the school and the community. She did as she was told and started the group with six couples and two dances. They had two performances that first spring, and thus the Dancers were born.

From there the group grew as interest in
Scandinavian culture was also growing, both here and
in Norway. Jeanne devoted her entire life to the Norwegian Dancers. Never having been married and without children of her own, the Norwegian Dancers became her children and their parents, her family. She took great pride and joy in her Dancers and worked tirelessly to ensure their success and growth. She described her dancers as ‘her beloved family’. Some would describe her as a “drill sergeant”. It was ‘her way or the high way’. While that was somewhat true, to those who knew her and understood her, she was someone who demanded excellence and respect from her dancers. She taught the Dancers how to pursue excellence in everything they did and to work hard. She had a sense of humor that wasn’t seen all too often, yet one could catch her smiling on occasion at the silly antics of her teenage ‘children’.

She was a person who preferred privacy over the spotlight. Although she was very pleased in 1971 to have been awarded the St. Olaf Medal for her efforts to promote Norwegian folk dance, her pursuit of excellence was for the Dancers and for the group. Jeanne retired from teaching in 1988 but continued to direct the Dancers thru Syttende Mai of 1999. She was able to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Dancers with all the alumni during Syttende Mai weekend, 2003 and then passed away March 9, 2004 due to complications with cancer..."

Polly Goepfert - August, 1999 - May, 2011

"...Our second son, Abraham had become a 'Dancer' his junior year. My husband and I did the usual 'parent duties', but we also had the opportunity to be chaperones on the 1999 Dancer tour to Seattle. I remember watching the Dancers from on top of a ladder, during one of the performances on tour and thinking how great it was to be helping out on tour, but not being in charge…little did I know how greatly my world was going to change…Abraham was chosen by Jeanne Reek (the first Director of the Dancers), to be the student leader for the next year and she had also chosen our youngest son, Jacob, to be one of the Dancers.

On June 7th, 1999, Jeanne Reek turned in her resignation as the Dancer Director…we were all stunned.

I was just finishing up a graduate course in ‘lead teaching’ and
my background consisted of a degree in physical education with an emphasis in gymnastics. I felt the need to step forward, but there were so many obstacles…we had a daughter who was six, parents who were aging, besides 3 teenage boys and both of us working full time, besides, I didn't know one dance. After a lengthy discussion with my husband, I called Olin Haried (principal at that time) and asked him if we could meet. There were many conversations that concluded with me offering, that if they couldn't find anyone else to take the position, I would consider it.

I became the second Director of the Norwegian Dancers. It was the hardest job I've ever attempted, but it was the most incredible journey for me. I learned so much from those I worked with, the kids and the parents, they were amazing. It is my hope that they learned many life lessons as they walked the year or years of Dancers with me. The memories I have with my Dancers will always be cherished…they blessed my life..."

Polly retired from directing the Dancers in May of 2011 and retired from teaching math at the Stoughton Middle School the following year.

Staci Heimsoth - June, 2011 - current

"...I was born and raised in Stoughton and graduated SHS class of 1985. I watched the dancers all of my childhood and had the privilege of being a dancer while in high school. Upon graduation, I went on to Luther College where I studied Biology and Norwegian. My grandparents had immigrated from Norway to the Stoughton countryside and both my dad and grandparents spoke Norwegian. My parents had taken our family to Norway to visit relatives in 1979.

 It was that trip that motivated me to pursue studying in Norway. So after one year of Norwegian classes at Luther I signed up to study in Norway at a Folkehøgskole in Telemark and left the following August. It was during my semester there that I immersed myself in Norwegian culture and language in order to learn as much as I could. I graduated from Luther in 1989 with degrees in Biology and Scandinavian Stud
With the SHS Norwegian Dancers being part of Stoughton High School, the group has been fortunate to have had District employees willing to serve as group direcctors. There have been three directors over the sixty year life of the SHS Norwegian Dancers, Jeanne Reek, Polly
Goepfert, and the current Director Staci Heimsoth.

Jeanne Reek - March, 1953 - June, 1999

School Superintendent Albert Moldenhauer came up with the idea to start the Norwegian Dancers in 1952. He asked Jeanne Reek to oversee this new group. For the next 46 years it grew from there under the leadership of Jeanne Reek. Sadly she is no longer with us, so she could not write her own bio. She did however put together a book in 2001 about the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers. The following bio was gathered from that book and combined with memories of those who knew her.

"...Jeanne Reek, of English descent, grew up during the depression years on a dairy farm in the Walworth-Lake Geneva area of Wisconsin. It was this upbringing that afforded her such a strong work ethic. She went on to graduate from UW La Crosse with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and then earned her master’s degree from UW Madison. Fresh out of graduate school, while teaching PE to grades Kindergarten thru 12th grade and leading five extracurricular groups, in the fall of 1952, she was approached by the superintendent of schools, Albert Moldenhauer. His request was for Ms. Reek to begin a Norwegian Dancer group at the high school to promote good relations between the school and the community. She did as she was told and started the group with six couples and two dances. They had two performances that first spring, and thus the Dancers were born.

From there the group grew as interest in
Scandinavian culture was also growing, both here and
in Norway. Jeanne devoted her entire life to the Norwegian Dancers. Never having been married and without children of her own, the Norwegian Dancers became her children and their parents, her family. She took great pride and joy in her Dancers and worked tirelessly to ensure their success and growth. She described her dancers as ‘her beloved family’. Some would describe her as a “drill sergeant”. It was ‘her way or the high way’. While that was somewhat true, to those who knew her and understood her, she was someone who demanded excellence and respect from her dancers. She taught the Dancers how to pursue excellence in everything they did and to work hard. She had a sense of humor that wasn’t seen all too often, yet one could catch her smiling on occasion at the silly antics of her teenage ‘children’.

She was a person who preferred privacy over the spotlight. Although she was very pleased in 1971 to have been awarded the St. Olaf Medal for her efforts to promote Norwegian folk dance, her pursuit of excellence was for the Dancers and for the group. Jeanne retired from teaching in 1988 but continued to direct the Dancers thru Syttende Mai of 1999. She was able to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Dancers with all the alumni during Syttende Mai weekend, 2003 and then passed away March 9, 2004 due to complications with cancer..."

Polly Goepfert - August, 1999 - May, 2011

"...Our second son, Abraham had become a 'Dancer' his junior year. My husband and I did the usual 'parent duties', but we also had the opportunity to be chaperones on the 1999 Dancer tour to Seattle. I remember watching the Dancers from on top of a ladder, during one of the performances on tour and thinking how great it was to be helping out on tour, but not being in charge…little did I know how greatly my world was going to change…Abraham was chosen by Jeanne Reek (the first Director of the Dancers), to be the student leader for the next year and she had also chosen our youngest son, Jacob, to be one of the Dancers.

On June 7th, 1999, Jeanne Reek turned in her resignation as the Dancer Director…we were all stunned.

I was just finishing up a graduate course in ‘lead teaching’ and
my background consisted of a degree in physical education with an emphasis in gymnastics. I felt the need to step forward, but there were so many obstacles…we had a daughter who was six, parents who were aging, besides 3 teenage boys and both of us working full time, besides, I didn't know one dance. After a lengthy discussion with my husband, I called Olin Haried (principal at that time) and asked him if we could meet. There were many conversations that concluded with me offering, that if they couldn't find anyone else to take the position, I would consider it.

I became the second Director of the Norwegian Dancers. It was the hardest job I've ever attempted, but it was the most incredible journey for me. I learned so much from those I worked with, the kids and the parents, they were amazing. It is my hope that they learned many life lessons as they walked the year or years of Dancers with me. The memories I have with my Dancers will always be cherished…they blessed my life..."

Polly retired from directing the Dancers in May of 2011 and retired from teaching math at the Stoughton Middle School the following year.

Staci Heimsoth - June, 2011 - current

"...I was born and raised in Stoughton and graduated SHS class of 1985. I watched the dancers all of my childhood and had the privilege of being a dancer while in high school. Upon graduation, I went on to Luther College where I studied Biology and Norwegian. My grandparents had immigrated from Norway to the Stoughton countryside and both my dad and grandparents spoke Norwegian. My parents had taken our family to Norway to visit relatives in 1979.

 It was that trip that motivated me to pursue studying in Norway. So after one year of Norwegian classes at Luther I signed up to study in Norway at a Folkehøgskole in Telemark and left the following August. It was during my semester there that I immersed myself in Norwegian culture and language in order to learn as much as I could. I graduated from Luther in 1989 with degrees in Biology and Scandinavian Stud