Born to father Raymond Edwin Kusler and mother LaVerne Mayer, Diane Laverne Kusler Larson always felt that she wanted to serve others and help children learn and grow. As she embarked on her studies, she made education her focus from the very beginning, earning her teacher certification in the state of Minnesota followed a Bachelor of Science from Valley City State University in 1964. She began her career as an elementary teacher with Cokato Elementary School in 1962 and held the same role with Lakeview Elementary School from 1964 to 1966. Subsequently, she spent a year as a vocal teacher with Wheaton High School from 1966 to 1967 before joining Owatonna Public Schools, where she taught for over two decades.
During this time, Ms. Larson furthered her own education and obtained a Master of Science from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 1977 along with education specialist certification in 1987. Also attaining certification as a principal in the state of Minnesota, she became the principal of Owatonna Elementary School until she retired from the Owatonna Public Schools in 1998. She cultivated considerable expertise in language arts, literature, grammar and reading over the course of her career and continued to proffer said expertise as a freelance reading specialist until she fully retired in 2008. Attributing much of her success to her passion for public education, Ms. Larson was continually motivated to provide the best possible education for children by working collaboratively with parents, teachers and students alike to make the school as good as it could be.
Alongside her primary responsibilities, Ms. Larson has contributed her skills to a number of other professional endeavors as well. From 1981 to 1983, she was the vice president of the Cannon Valley UniServ Education Association and was on the board of directors for the National Education Association from 1986 to 1988, where she also was the 1988 delegate to the World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession. She has also spent time on the boards of the Minnesota Education Association, the Minnesota Reading Association and the International Literacy Association. Furthermore, she continues to hold membership in the Minnesota Elementary Principals’ Association, the Valley City State University Alumni Association and the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.
Ms. Larson has had many career highlights throughout the years, and always found it immensely gratifying to be able to help someone learn or to simply share what a student was interested in. Becoming a principal was a particular moment of pride for her, because it allowed her to make a difference on a wider scale than she’d been able to as merely a teacher, as was being elected to the boards of directors for both the National Education Association and the International Literacy Association. Above all these things, however, Ms. Larson cites her most memorable moment in all of her career as the time she saved a child’s life. A child in the nurse’s office became very ill while the nurse was out, and Ms. Larson was able to recognize the symptoms of a cerebral hemorrhage and call for an ambulance in time to save the child’s life.
For excellence in her career, Ms. Larson has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades. In 1983, she was presented with the Outstanding Woman in Leadership Award by the Minnesota Education Association and the following year received the President’s Award from the Minnesota Reading Association. She went on to be honored with the Woman of Achievement Award from Delta Kappa Gamma in 1989 and named Woman of the Year by Owatonna Business Women in 1990. In 1998, she was awarded both the Celebrate Literacy Award from the International Literacy Association and a certificate of merit from the Valley City State University Alumni Association.
Remaining active in her retirement, Ms. Larson recently served as the president of the Women’s Club of Owatonna from 2018 to 2019 and on their board from 2019 to 2020. She is also involved with the Congregational United Church of Christ, where she donates her skills as a piano player. In her free time, she also enjoys digital scrapbooking, traveling and gardening. Hoping to leave a legacy as an honest person who was always willing to lend a helping hand, Ms. Larson feels deeply grateful to her mentors, Mary Hatford of the National Education Association and, Dorthy Smith, a reading coordinator.