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Area Educators of Excellence celebrated for dedication

A recording of the event is now available to watch.

Educators of Excellence group outside.
Area Educators of Excellence gather outside Grand View Lodge.
Contributed by Sourcewell
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STAPLES — More than 50 educators from schools in Wadena, Todd, Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties have been selected by school administration for outstanding dedication, hard work and leadership.

For their achievements, they were celebrated as Educators of Excellence at a special event held Wednesday, April 27 at 5:30 p.m.

This event recognizes and awards local educators who positively impact students and colleagues. In addition to individual Educators of Excellence awards; a Leader, Paraprofessionals, Coach, Team of Excellence, Support Staff and Silver Lining Award of Excellence will also be named and recognized.

This celebration was by invitation only; however, a recording of the complete event can be found on the Sourcewell Facebook page.

Here are the area awards:

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Leader of Excellence

A woman smiling.
Jana Timm, Freshwater Education District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Jana Timm, Freshwater Education District
As the Freshwater Education District Area Learning Center Specialist, Jana recognizes the individual strengths of each of the five separate ALCs and serves as the glue who helps all operate as one cohesive unit. While always working for the well-being of the student population, Jana challenges the staff to create stronger programs while exploring their own passions. She is willing to go above and beyond and often spends her personal time and resources providing for and advocating for students.

Paraprofessionals of Excellence

A woman smiling.
Vicki Johnson, Staples-Motley School District
Contributed / Sourcewell
A woman smiling.
Sheila Jackson, Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Vicki Johnson, Staples-Motley Middle/High SchoolSheila Jackson, Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School

No matter the classroom, Miss Vicki knows what her middle school students need to achieve. Regardless of subject or grade, she takes her role of student support to the highest of integrities. She seeks out the adaptations needed to ensure students’ pathway is clear of hurdles and then, with strong expectations, supports them as they reach for their individual success. She’s far more than academics to students; her nurturing methods are blended with accountability in hopes of seeing them be the best version of themselves, not only at school, but in their personal lives. Vicki embraces her role with an incredible smile and huge energy. She’s contagious!

Sheila is a champion for every child she works with. She seeks out opportunities to work with students who have difficulty interacting with social norms and within the environment they find themselves. She uses her 20-plus years of experience to guide her everyday decisions and is willing to share her knowledge with other paraprofessionals and teachers. Sheila was especially concerned for students during the pandemic and helped her supervising teacher choose engaging and individualized activities. She takes the time to really get to know the students who surround her.

Coach of Excellence

A man smiling.
Alan Hanson, Bertha-Hewitt School District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Alan Hanson, Bertha-Hewitt Schools
In three years’ time, Al’s goal of simply creating a cross country team for more student opportunities, turned into a boys’ team conference championship in 2021 and a strong boys’ and girls’ junior high program that is sure to yield even more success in the future. Al’s energy and enthusiasm have drawn students into the program who might not otherwise choose a fall sport and has turned them into successful runners.

Silver Lining Award

A woman smiling.
Monica Watson, Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Monica Watson, Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School
Monica is relentless when it comes to providing a safe and positive learning experience for students and staff. She checks in with staff to see how students are progressing and to ask how she can help support the staff themselves. She freely shares her knowledge and her heart. As the school social worker, Monica is often the silver lining amongst the storm clouds — showing concern, support, and encouragement for all families, staff, and students.

Teachers of Excellence

A woman smiling.
Angie Baker, Bertha-Hewitt School District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Angie Baker, Bertha-Hewitt High School
Angie wears many hats at Bertha-Hewitt. In addition to her role of Title teacher, she is also the Title coordinator. She also served as a distance learning coordinator during the pandemic. With each role, Angie has gone above and beyond to provide the best possible services for students. Her calm and professional demeanor is appreciated by all staff and students.

A woman smiling.
Sheri Johnson, Freshwater Education District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Sheri Johnson, Freshwater Education District
Sheri has been an early childhood special education teacher for more than 20 years. She is always eager to learn new approaches and best practices for teaching and serving children with special needs. Currently, she is a member of the B-2 assessment team, a lead teacher in charge of due process, and a home visitor. Sheri is family oriented and works to keep their ideas and needs at the forefront of her service.

A woman smiling.
Christy Henry, Menahga Public School District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
A man smiling.
Scott Petrowski, Menahga Public School District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Christy Henry, Menahga Elementary SchoolScott Petrowski, Menahga High School
Christy has played an incredible leadership role in the Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports and Response to Intervention process that Menahga has put in place. She does her research, puts into practice, and makes data-based decisions every single day. She also models and coaches for all teachers and spends countless hours outside of the school day making sure that every child is making gains.As a high school social studies teacher and varsity assistant baseball coach, Scott always goes above and beyond to help students succeed. He holds students accountable while still allowing modifications to meet their needs. He presents his material in a way that makes his class fun, interesting, and engaging.

A woman smiling.
Ronnie Lee, Sebeka Public Schools.
Contributed / Sourcewell
A man smiling.
Daniel Doyle, Sebeka Public Schools.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Ronnie Lee, Sebeka Elementary SchoolDaniel Doyle, Sebeka Secondary School
Because of her love of teaching, Ronnie’s third-graders are always excited to come to school. Students are eager to learn in her class and she has their attention all day long. She sees students as what they can become and helps them to move beyond that. With her passion for teaching, she helps students discover a love of reading as they increase their skill and learn to select their own books. She is a teacher who has all of her students reading well by third grade.Great organization, structure, and clear expectations define the atmosphere in Dan’s classroom. Due to his consistency and the excellent rapport he develops with his students, he is a favorite teacher of many. His approach is to treat all students equally, treat all students fairly, and – regardless of cultural or equity differences – hold students to high standards in his classroom.

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A woman smiling.
Mary Moen, Staples-Motley School District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
A man smiling.
Marly Simmons, Staples-Motley School District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Mary Moen, Staples-Motley Elementary SchoolMarly Simmons, Staples-Motley Middle/High School
Mary has taught music at Staples-Motley Elementary
for the last 28 years. She has designed, presented,
and successfully implemented the foundational skills,
setting a base to support a long-standing history of successful musical talent in the community. For many years she has enhanced not only the music classes but provided extra opportunities through after-school
programs, including the Colla Voce girls’ choir, Central Minnesota Boys’ Choir, and Elementary Choir for students in grades 3-5.
Marly teaches upper-level high school math. The kind of math where kids wonder: “Why do I have to do this?” Who better to learn from than Mr. Simmons?
He’s phenomenal, he’s dedicated, he’s disciplined, and a really great instructor. He expects the best from his students and he gets it. Whether it’s one-on-one reteaching of “hard math,” participating in theme days with students, or leading the staff dance, he always gives his best to his students and colleagues.

A woman smiling.
Meagan Ferris, Verndale Public School District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
A man smiling.
Steve Riewer, Verndale Public School District.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Meagan Ferris, Verndale Elementary SchoolSteve Riewer, Verndale High School
Meagan is always willing to do whatever it takes to make sure her students succeed. She has furthered her education and has been open to always learning new things that will ensure her students’ success.
Meagan makes great connections with her students and establishes the relationships so many students need. She is very passionate about what she does, and it shows in her dedication to education.
Steve is the standard when it comes to setting high expectations for himself and his students. He teaches a subject that is not a common favorite among students (mathematics). But one thing is for sure: students learn in his classroom. He has a way of balancing his serious attitude toward learning with his love of people and sense of humor. In his classes, learning always happens first, but he has a way of connecting with students that is unmatched.

A woman smiling.
Christie Ruda, Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools.
Contributed / Sourcewell
A woman smiling.
Brenda Thelen, Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools.
Contributed / Sourcewell
Christie Ruda, Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary SchoolBrenda Thelen, Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School
Christie is the Title I lead teacher and is responsible for programming, scheduling, and delivering reading and math interventions to over 300 students at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary. Her organizational skills and communications with colleagues ensure each student gets the appropriate intervention for the right amount of time at the right time. She exemplifies the P.A.W. (Positive, Always ready, Working together) in WDC’s “Wolverine Way” with her approach to her role as a Title I lead teacher.Brenda’s number one priority in everything she does is making sure her school is a better place for all students. She prides herself on forming positive relationships with everyone – students and staff. As a Spanish teacher, she makes her classes fun and welcoming. A current student put it best recently when she said: “Ms. Thelen is just a good teacher. She wants us all to be successful.”
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