HOVEN, S.D. (AP) — When Hoven High School teacher Linda Coyne was the new kid in town, she took possession of a wooden half-podium from the outgoing agriculture teacher.

"When I started teaching, I sort of inherited everything nobody else wanted at the high school," she said. "You know, first-year teacher, you're not going to be ordering this or that. Somehow or another, this podium ended up in my room."

That was back in 1976, eight years after Coyne graduated from Hoven High School.

Coyne teaches social studies and French, the same subjects as when she started her career as a teacher in the early 1970s in Hot Springs.

"I'm now the senior member of the staff, when I used to be, years ago, the youngest member of the staff," she said. "Funny how that happens."

Once she became a fixture at the school, Coyne said the students started adding signatures to her podium in the 1990s.

"I'm sure the first one I probably scolded and said, 'Don't you be writing on this thing,'" Coyne said. "Then it kind of happened that the next time I'd look at it there'd be a few more signatures and a few more. Some of them had even written on the inside of it to make sure that it doesn't get erased by someone else's name."

Now, when former students stop by to visit, they'll check out the podium to see if their name is still there.

"First thing they do is they go look and make sure their name is still on there," Coyne said.

The Aberdeen American News reports that the podium somehow survived the 2014 Memorial Day weekend fire in the old Hoven High School building.

"I had it covered with a black garbage bag, and when I pulled the garbage bag off, I was really afraid that the names were going to come with it, and some probably did," Coyne said. "But I aired it out on the patio all summer after the fire — just let it sit out there, rain or shine — and that kind of got the smell out of it, and before school started, I put a coat of varnish over it."

She was hoping that would preserve the names. But the varnish didn't stop the tradition.

"They've added," Coyne said. "That was just so that if I wiped it off with something, it wouldn't come off on your hand."

Because of the classes she teaches, practically everyone who graduates from Hoven High School winds up signing the podium, Coyne said.

"A lot of lessons have been taught from that podium," she said. "As long as it's holding up — I've had a few slivers from it, but you just learn to avoid those spots."

While she has no immediate plans to retire — Coyne said she wants to keep teaching as long as she's healthy — when she does, the podium will find a new home at her home.

"It's a little out of place in the modern setting of the new school," she said. "I don't think it would mean anything to anyone else."

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Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com