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2012 WEM Educator Award Brunch

Outstanding Educators Receive Awards Totaling $70,000

On Oct. 13, educators from Minnesota received $10,000 awards from the WEM Foundation at the 14th Annual WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Brunch held at the Oak Ridge Conference Center in Chaska.

Educators and academic coaches from Annandale, Eastern Carver County, St. Paul, Mankato, University of Minnesota Extension, Wayzata and West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions to student achievement.
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 presented 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 2012 WEM Foundation Outstanding Educator Award honorees are:
Teacher Achievement Award:
Charles Skemp is a history teacher from Henry Sibley High School in the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan school district. He has been teaching for 16 years. In addition to his teaching, Skemp is an assistant debate coach and advisor for History Day and Scholars of Distinction. His nominator told him, “Your passion for teaching and ability to make social studies come alive is what made me think of you. You have made an enormous difference in the lives of your students, and in my book that makes you a natural choice.”
Katie Zuehlke is a kindergarten teacher from Bendix Elementary in the Annandale school district. She has been teaching for 14 years. Zuehlke presents at many literacy workshops and is a published freelance writer. A parent said, “Her passion, commitment to her students and education, and her enthusiasm for learning is contagious. When students graduate from her classroom, they leave with tools for success.”
Academic Challenge Coach Award:
Christopher Lenius is the coordinator of gifted services for Chaska and Chanhassen High Schools in the Eastern Carver County Schools district. He coaches Senior High Knowledge Bowl and has been teaching and coaching for 12 years. A colleague explained, “His attention to detail is infectious and you can personally witness this in any group or meeting in which Chris participates. His presence alone pushes people to do their best.”
Gail Sarff is a language arts teacher at Wayzata High School and coaches speech and debate. She has been teaching and coaching for 37 years. A former assistant coach and current coach at a competing school said, “Gail demonstrates high ethics and commitment to educating the whole student by her approach to competition. She gives them deeper understanding of topics and helps them become informed citizens.”
Ethics in Education Award:
Carrie Bakken is a program co-coordinator, advisor and social studies teacher at Avalon Charter School in St. Paul. She has been teaching for 13 years. Bakken is committed to creating opportunities for students to explore democratic values, ethics and civic engagement. A former student wrote, “Perhaps even more important than Carrie’s professional achievements and contributions to Avalon School is her kind, supportive demeanor. Students and staff value her presence in our lives and seek out her constructive criticism.”
Emily Seppmann is a special education teacher in the self-contained Behavior Support Program at Roosevelt Elementary in Mankato. She has been teaching for nine years. A parent of a former student said, “Emily gives students a place where they are respected, where they are treated with dignity, where they are loved, welcomed and accepted for who they are. She unconditionally supports the students – whatever their needs.”
Excellence in Education Award:
Dorothy McCargo Freeman is currently serving as Dean for the Center for Youth Development, University of Minnesota Extension. She assumed this position on August 1, 2003. Dorothy has a Ph.D. in Human Development from Virginia Tech with an emphasis in adolescent development. Her Dissertation Title is “The Contribution of Faith and Ego Strength in the Prediction of GPA among High School Adolescents.” This work reflects Dorothy’s foundational values and beliefs in 4-H programming for urban youth. Dorothy brings more than 30 years of working with staff, children, youth and families as she stewards the Minnesota 4-H Program. Dorothy retired from Virginia Cooperative Extension in June 2003 prior to joining University of Minnesota Extension Service. 
The WEM Outstanding Educator Awards program was created by the WEM Foundation and is administered by Synergy & Leadership Exchange in partnership with The Minnesota Service Cooperatives (MSC). The WEM Foundation supports teachers and acknowledges their important role in helping all children achieve academically. The awards program, now in its 14th year, has helped recognize education’s often “unsung heroes,” 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 Synergy & Leadership Exchange and a blue ribbon selection panel, which reviews and ranks the nominees.
In addition to the seven statewide honorees, five additional educators were honored earlier this year as 2012 regional honorees and each received a $1,000 award.
For more information on the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program and Synergy & Leadership Exchange, visit www.synergyexchange.org.

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