The Minnesota Teacher of the Year semifinalists include 36 teachers, according to an Education Minnesota news release, though Wadena-Deer Creek Middle High School band teacher Lisa Weniger will not move forward.

Weniger received the news first through a Facebook post and then her official letter. Though the list of semifinalist teachers excites her, she will remain more than busy until the end of the year with the music department’s concerts, contests and extra performances for graduation and Memorial Day.

“I’m OK. That was great to have to go through that whole first process,” Weniger said.

Weniger learned how her philosophy of education has changed since graduating from college as education and students have changed, including how to relate to students and keep them engaged.. Her recommendation letters from colleagues and students were a humbling aspect.

“It’s like, ‘Wow, that’s how they see me.’ And it’s really heart-warming,” Weniger said.

The process showed Weniger how others see the gifts she has, and for the moments of congratulations from the community and colleagues, she said, “It was kind of awesome.”

“Even yesterday, I was at Walmart and a gentleman from my church came up and gave me a huge hug. He goes, ‘Oh, I want to say congratulations. I’ve been waiting to see you.’ He says, ‘I hope you go all the way with this.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I already know I’m not. (Laughs). I just got my letter the other day.’ And he goes, ‘Noooo,’” Weniger said.

While Weniger has been pulled from the running, she is thankful for all the support she has seen. She adds that the school is filled with lots of good teachers, each deserving of honor as well.

For this year, the semi-finalists are named and before the final selection on May 3, the community leaders panel will reevaluate the portfolios and an additional video submission in late March, according to an Education Minnesota news release.