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2014 WEM Educator Award Brunch

Fourteen Outstanding Educators Receive Awards Totaling $115,500
Synergy & Leadership Exchange has announced that educators and academic coaches from Delano Public Schools, Forest Lake, Richfield Public Schools, West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools and White Bear Lake Area Schools have been named as recipients of WEM Foundation Outstanding Educator Awards in recognition of their outstanding accomplishments and contributions to student achievement.
Two honorees are named in each of three categories and each receive $15,000: Teacher Achievement Awards, recognizing exemplary teachers who support, inspire and assist students to attain greater learning as evidenced by student achievement; Academic Challenge Coach Awards, recognizing classroom teachers who are exemplary coaches of student teams who participate and compete in academic challenges endorsed by the Minnesota Academic Council; and Ethics in Education Awards, recognizing exemplary educators who embody ethical behavior and promote ethical development for students through classroom or school activities, policies or curriculum. In addition, 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 2014 WEM Foundation Outstanding Educator Award honorees are:
Teacher Achievement Award:
Meredith Huikko is a kindergarten teacher from Delano Elementary School in the Delano Public Schools. She has been teaching for 14 years. Huikko has emerged as a school leader in the area of technology. She embraces technology as a tool that can enhance learning and engage student interest at a level not typically seen in a kindergarten classroom. “Technology is an area in which Meredith excels in the classroom,” shared a colleague. “Meredith’s SMART board lessons provide active participation with technology for her students and are an exciting part of her students’ learning.” 
Peter Bohacek is a physics teacher at Henry Sibley High School in the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools. He has been teaching for 12 years. Bohacek developed a new curriculum for physics called direct-measurement video. These videos use high-speed or time-lapse video overlaid with graphics to replace traditional textbook problems. The goal of the direct-measurement video problem is to help students see how physics applies to realistic, engaging situations. ”By incorporating video problems, interactive computer simulations and real-time demonstrations into his classes, Peter is able to provide his students with an opportunity to develop a much greater depth of understanding of a concept than in a traditional lecture based case,” shared a colleague. 
Academic Challenge Coach Award:
Huy Nguyen is an American history teacher to seventh grade students and coaches History Day at Sunrise Park Middle School in the White Bear Lake Area Schools. He has been teaching and coaching for 21 years. Nguyen has truly embedded History Day as part of the middle experience at Sunrise Park Middle School. Since 2002, Nguyen has coached 13 state champion students, nine state runner-up students and five students finishing in the top five at the national competition. “Nguyen is a teacher who makes history come alive for his students! He uses innovation and meaningful lessons to engage and challenge students for success,” said a colleague. “Nguyen has always wanted to inspire students to learn and understand the past so they can connect it to their present lives.”
Sheila Johnston currently implements gifted education programs for students in first through fifth grades and coaches Future Problem Solving and FIRST LEGO League® at Centennial Elementary and Sheridan Hills Elementary in the Richfield Public Schools. She has been teaching and coaching for 24 years. Johnston brought Future Problem Solving to the Richfield Public Schools eight years ago and has overseen its growth into all of the district’s schools as well as at the middle school and high school. Future Problem Solving teaches students how to think, not what to think.  This is accomplished by teaching critical and creative thinking skills, problem solving, and decision making skills via a six step process. Last year under Sheila’s guidance one of the Centennial Future Problem Solving teams had a first place finish at the state competition!
Ethics in Education Award:
Claire Gilbert is a fifth grade teacher at Lakes International Language Academy, a public charter school in Forest Lake. She has been teaching for seven years. Gilbert is a teacher who chooses to focus not only on academics but also on the social and emotional development of her students. One of her most honed classroom tools is guided reflection. Gilbert engages her students through a game while developing community rules. Following the game she reflects with her class about the success, how they felt during, what they learned and whether or not the rules needed to be adjusted. 
Jennifer Parker is a kindergarten through fourth grade multi-cultural naturalist teacher and leads gifted and talented programs at Garlough Environmental Magnet School in the West St. Paul – Mendota Heights – Eagan Area Schools. She has been teaching for 15 years. To promote ethical conduct within her classroom, Parker creates anchor charts to remind her students how to learn together from their successes and failures. “Jennifer’s class learns to work together with students from different backgrounds and abilities and practice how to solve problems using non-violent methods. During these exercises students reflect on appropriate behavior through think-pair-share, drawing in their journals, writing and dictating,” said Principal Sue Powell.
Excellence in Education Award:
Dorwatha Woods who was the keynote speaker, was surprised with the Excellence in Education Award. Woods is currently the principal at Ascension Catholic School. She has had a wealth of teaching experiences in her career in public elementary schools, a pre-school, and on mission trips to South Africa. Woods has become known for her work in educating a widely diverse population characterized by low incomes, joblessness, homelessness, and domestic and neighborhood violence and unrest. When the time came to announce the Excellence in Education award recipient Woods had no idea it was meant for her! After gathering her thoughts, she remarked on her 27 year teaching career. 
The WEM Educator Awards program was created by the WEM Foundation, and is administered by Synergy & Leadership Exchange (Synergy) 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 16th 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 first nominated for the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program by students, parents, colleagues or community members. Those who accept the nomination provide additional information for consideration by Synergy and a blue ribbon selection panel, which reviews and ranks the nominees.
In addition to the six statewide honorees, seven additional educators have been named as 2014 regional honorees and each will receive a $1,500 award.
Teacher Achievement Award
  • Michael Sundblad is an engineering and industrial technology teacher from Glencoe-Silver Lake High School, Glencoe-Silver Lakes Schools.
  • Earl Weinmann is a social studies teacher from Northfield Middle School, Northfield Public Schools.
  • Maurna Rome is a Title I teacher from Ogilvie Elementary, Ogilvie Schools.
  • Robert Fink is a fourth grade teacher from Springfield Elementary, Springfield Public Schools.
  • Mike Wallace is a physical education teacher from Hilltop Primary School, Westonka Public Schools.
  • Sandy Carpenter is a social studies teacher from Marshall Middle School, Marshall Area Public Schools.
Ethics in Education Award
  • Amanda Feterl is an art teacher from Sibley East Elementary – Gaylord Campus, Sibley East Public Schools.

2014 Honorees (l-r):Nguyen, Parker, Johnston, Bohacek, Huikko, Woods (Not Pictured: Claire Gilbert)


Peter Bohacek speaking on his experience as a teacher.


Huy Nguyen with his History Day Students, who came to celebrate his award.


Keynote speaker, Dorwatha Woods, who was later surprised with an Excellence in Education Award


Dorwatha Woods, upon hearing she is the recipient of the 2014 Excellence in Education Award.

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