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2010 WEM Educator Award Brunch

Seven Outstanding Educators Receive Awards Totaling $70,000
 
On Oct. 16, seven educators from Minnesota each received a $10,000 award from the WEM Foundation at the 12th Annual WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Brunch held at the Oak Ridge Conference Center in Chaska.
 
Educators and academic coaches from Belle Plaine, Columbia Heights, Delano, Mankato, Pipestone and St. Paul school districts, and Minnesota History Day were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions to student achievement. In addition to the presentation of awards, guest speaker Ron Hustvedt, Jr. from the Elk River School District, KARE-11’s “What’s Cool In Your School” honoree and the 2010 Teacher of Merit award from National History Day in Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society, addressed the honorees and guests.
 
Two honorees were named in each of three categories:The Teacher Achievement Award recognizes exemplary teachers who support, inspire and assist students to attain greater learning as evidenced by student achievement; the Academic Challenge Coach of the Year Award recognizes classroom teachers who are exemplary coaches of student teams that participate and compete in academic challenges endorsed by the Minnesota Academic League Council; and the Ethics in Education Award recognizes exemplary educators who embody ethical behavior and promote ethical development for students through classroom or school activities, policies or curriculum. In addition, this year the WEM Foundation introduced a new award, the Excellence in Education Award, which recognizes superior contributions of educators whose leadership and dedication inspire a spirit of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities outside the traditional education system and classroom.
 
The 2010 WEM Foundation Outstanding Educator Award honorees are:

Teacher Achievement Award:

Kris Haslund teaches 136 diverse, urban learners in fourth grade at Capitol Hill Gifted Magnet in St. Paul. She has been teaching for 34 years. With more than 100 different home languages spoken in St. Paul Public Schools, Haslund works in a culturally diverse classroom. She works with a variety of students including homeless students, students who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, Twice Exceptional (2E) students and students on the Autistic Spectrum, especially those with Asperger’s Syndrome. She makes sure all of her students’ learning needs are accommodated. In Haslund’s classroom, students listen to Mozart during Writer’s Workshop, kinesthetically act out spelling vocabulary and geometric forms, receive healthy snacks and wellness breaks, and some students even have “pilate-esque” stability balls at their desks in place of chairs. Thanks to technology initiative courses and a Hewlett-Packard grant she received last year, her classroom has a dynamic spectrum of 21st century, hands-on learning resources.
 
J. Scott Urban teaches Advanced Placement (AP) United States Government and Politics, as well as United States History to students in grades 10 and 12 at Mankato West High School. He has been teaching for 27 years. After arriving at Mankato West High School in 1998, he initiated a National History Day (NHD) competition in his classroom and encouraged a colleague to join the activity as well. Today Mankato West has more than 300 students involved in the program and its students have represented Minnesota at the national competition in both the individual and group documentary categories. In 1998, Urban’s first AP Government class contained 17 students. For the last three years, he has maintained a steady enrollment of approximately 100 students in four classes. Over the past 11 years, students at Mankato West High School have maintained an 80% passing rate on the national AP exam. The Minnesota state average is around 65% and the national average is around 50%. Last year 85 students took the exam, with a passing rate of 94%. Fifty-four percent achieved the highest possible score, five out of five. The national average for students earning a five is 16%.

Academic Challenge Coach of the Year Award:

Nate Henry teaches English to students in grades 10-11 and coaches the One Act Play at Pipestone High School. He has been teaching for 11 years and coaching for 10 years. As director of the One-Act Play, Henry gives students of all backgrounds and abilities the opportunity to participate and excel on stage. He takes tremendous pride in how the One-Act Play and theatre offers opportunities for students who have not found their niche elsewhere. In the 49 years prior to Henry’s coaching, One-Act Play teams from his school advanced to state five times. Under Henry’s leadership, Pipestone Area High School has advanced to the state event six times in the past nine years, earning seven subsection championships, six section championships, one section runner up, and two Wells Fargo State Champion Arts Out Front awards or “starred performances” given at the state festival, the highest possible honor a Minnesota high school team can receive.
 
Jerry Shouts teaches Advanced Geometry, Advanced Algebra, Advanced Math Topics and Pre-Calculus to students in grades 9-12 at Delano High School. He has been teaching for 33 years and is chairperson for the math department. He has coached the Delano High School Math Team in the Minnesota State High School Mathematics League for 21 years. Of the 21 years that Shouts has been coaching, 14 years resulted in a first or second place finish in the conference, and 2010 marks Delano’s seventh straight state appearance. Shouts has grown the program to include 75 mathletes, which make up about 10 percent of the high school population. The math team is the only other team in the school besides the football team that requires two buses for transportation to meets. At the meets, all students, regardless of ability or standing within the team, participate in two individual events as well as the team event. Events include algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus and the team problem-solving exercise. Each meet concludes with a pizza buffet dinner at a local restaurant. The team fills the restaurant, creating great friendships as students share notes, stories, strategies, pizza and pop.

Ethics in Education Award:

Angel McCusker Brown has been teaching for 10 years and currently teaches sixth grade robotics as well as engineering classes to seventh and eighth graders in the Columbia Heights School District. Central Middle School hosts a diverse student population, with approximately 70% students of color, 72% students living in poverty and 30% students who are English Language Learners. Because of her leadership and passion, Brown, who began her career as a science teacher, was asked to develop an engineering program with a cooperating math teacher. The two designed a class with assistance from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Education. It was piloted during the 2008-2009 school year, and as evidenced by the registration for the 2010-2011 school year, it is apparent that Brown has made engineering one of the most popular electives. In her class, Engineering for the Client, students act as engineers working in a professional environment designing products for their clients.
 
Megan Merry Gerres is a kindergarten teacher from Chatfield Elementary in Belle Plaine who has been teaching for 13 years. Chatfield’s “All-School Morning Meeting,” one of the reasons Gerres was selected, was a 2009 Promising Practice award winner, part of the Minnesota Schools of Character (MNSOC) program. Gerres’ involvement in the meetings has been essential to their success. Each meeting begins with a welcome from each classroom. Second grade students then model the character theme for the month and “Terrific Tiger” awards are presented to students that were nominated for practicing the previous month’s theme. Gerres leads by example, showing her students that doing little things makes a world of difference. Her class motto is “Let’s be good together.” In her classroom, similarities and differences are recognized and celebrated. Gerres uses the Responsive Classroom approach in her teaching and classroom management in order to build the social skills needed for success in school and in the world.

Excellence in Education Award:

Tim Hooglandis the co-coordinator of History Day in Minnesota and manager of education outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society was honored as the first recipient of the WEM Outstanding Educator Excellence in Education award. He has been with the History Day program for over 20 years. In this time, participation in History Day has increased from 125 students to nearly 30,000 students each year. Nina Archabal, Minnesota Historical Society Director, describes Hoogland as “a grown up version of his History Day kids – full of anticipation and enthusiasm. He is like the Pied Piper of Hamelin – leading kids down a wonderful path!”
 
The WEM Educator Awards program was created by the WEM Foundation, and is administered by the Center for Academic Excellence in partnership with The Minnesota Service Cooperatives (MSC). The WEM Foundation supports teachers and their important role in helping all children achieve academically. The awards program, now in its 12th year, has helped recognize education’s often "unsung heroes" and educators who meet the challenges and opportunities of teaching in a variety of settings.
 
Educators are nominated for the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program by students, parents, colleagues or community members. Those who accept the nomination provide additional information for review and consideration by the Center for Academic Excellence and a blue ribbon selection panel, which reviews and ranks the nominees.
 
In addition to the seven statewide honorees, 12 additional educators were named as regional honorees for 2010.
 
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