Meet a Volunteer: Jane Norbin

Jane Norbin has been a life-long learner from Day 1, welcoming challenges in her varied professional life as well as continually searching out learning opportunities as a mother and grandmother. She’s often been the ‘fixer’, stepping in to do tough jobs which might involve starting a new non-profit to meet a societal need or managing a department through change. Marine Mills Folk School has benefited from her ‘hands on’ approach and willingness to pitch in to do whatever is needed.

Why do you volunteer with Marine Mills Folk School? It all goes back to learning as I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, on the job and at home. When my kids got a little older and I had more free time, I began to take classes through our local community education group. While on vacation in Grand Marais I learned of North House Folk School and found the folk school approach of creating community and sharing knowledge with other learners really appealed to my style of learning. I loved learning about, and from, my fellow class participants. When I found there was a new folk school in my back yard, I wanted to help the school grow and thrive.

Here’s our vision, what especially appeals to you?

          People will honor and appreciate fellow artists and craftspeople of similar and differing cultural heritage as well as those from other times, experience the joy of creating and the restorative power of our natural environment.

Appreciating and valuing people of other cultures. I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, a place with essentially no diversity. I attended the University of Wisconsin in the ‘60’s when so much was going on, being involved with Vietnam protests and civil rights helped open my eyes to others who weren’t necessarily like the people I grew up with. My first job out of graduate school was in Ramsey County, where we worked with newly arrived Hmong immigrants. I loved learning new traditions and cultural heritage, and that interest continues to this day. My life has been enriched by exposure to other cultures, and I think our society benefits from a more diverse society.  

Photo Credit: Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

You worked in the public sector for your entire career, would you recommend that to young people? I certainly found public service to be rewarding. Both my husband and I worked in various public sector jobs. We wanted to raise a family responsibly and save for retirement, but we were not expecting high salaries. I’ve always been motivated to do the best job I could but it was important to me to be able to focus on people who benefited from my skills. I wanted to help improve lives. Even when I worked in as the Director of public policy for Ramsey County, I felt that while I was involved in making a community better, I was serving individuals.

Children or grandchildren, what’s better? Both are wonderful, each different than the other. With your own kids there is no time to think, you just muscle through – we’re so lucky to have nice, smart kids who are good citizens and parents. Grandchildren are a gift that keep on giving, a true joy. You have time to think about what you’re doing and can create memories for them, and for you. We love the time with our grandkids.


  • Public heroines: Sacagawea, a teenage mother who was the only woman on the Lewis & Clark expedition and who saved the lives of many on that trip with her smarts and guts, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who fought for women’s rights in her own day and way.
  • Private heroines: my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, all strong women. During quiet moments I sometimes think they are all present with me. 
  • Favorite places in nature: The Temperance River and the St. Croix River
  • Good book to recommend: The Overstory by Richard Powers, which won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. A novel about the connectedness of humans and trees.

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