NEW PRAGUE, Minn. - Residents of New Prague are mourning the loss of a popular middle school teacher who died Sunday while shoveling snow.
New Prague Middle School Principal Tim Dittberner confirmed the death of social studies teacher Matt Shetka, 54, who was also a three-time state championship coach for gymnastics and a two-time state championship coach for girls golf.
All indications are that Shetka suffered a heart attack after snow shoveling during Sunday's powerful storm.
Dittberner says there are heavy hearts at both the middle school and high school, as Shetka was both a great teacher and a great guy. The principal met with the staff today and made an announcement to the students, as well as provided counseling for those grieving.
Shetka taught for 33 years in the district and served as a head varsity golf, volleyball and gymnastics coach, a rare three sport coach.
"New Prague has got 9 state titles in the history of the entire school and 5 state championships were coached by Matt, so it tells you the type of coach he was," said Dittberner.
Doug Amundsen runs the New Prague Gymnastics Club and coached high school girls gymnastics alongside Shetka for years. He says Shetlka was the magic behind New Prague's three state gymnastics titles. This morning, he met with the gymnasts to grieve.
"It is certainly a tough situation for them," said Doug Amundsen. "They respect him as a father, and I don't know if there was another term that would fit better."
Former student Tami Jackson, who says what Shetka taught her back in the late 1990's, lasted far beyond her achievements in the gym.
"I wouldn't be who I am today without him, truly, because as much as he pushed you, and ticked you off, he was there to bring you back up and say I know you can do this," said Jackson, through tears. "I would thank him so much for the drive he gave me."
Amundsen says the girls' gymnastics team already won two meets this season, and had visions of reaching state once again. He believes carrying on to victory would be the greatest tribute to a coach who impacted generations, and leaves a legendary legacy.
"Just a huge heart. Always looking out for the team," said Amundsen. "He wanted the credit to go to the kids. He was extremely proud, but more what kids put in, rather than the sacrifices he put in."
Shetka leaves behind his wife, Meg, who is also an elementary school teacher in the district, along with four sons.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )