Otsego Elementary first grade teacher Erin Rehnblom and Zimmerman High School/Middle School math teacher Julie Beaver have advanced to the finals of the Education Minnesota Teacher of the Year process, becoming two of just 11 teachers named to the prestigious final grouping.
Rehnblom and Beaver found out in early March they were semifinalists for the honor, after being among 115 nominees statewide.
Now, the two will work with a panel of about two dozen people representing Minnesota leaders in education, business and government who will choose the 52nd Minnesota Teacher of the Year.
Here’s a look at the two candidates from ISD 728.
“I think, if you look around our district and even in my school, there are so many others who would be worthy of an honor like this, too,” Rehnblom, a St. Michael resident, said. “To make it this far in the process is just really exciting.”
The 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be announced May 15 at the Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington.
Here’s a closer look at these two accomplished teachers.
Nominated by Nancy Benson at Otsego Elementary, Erin Rehnblom has known teaching was her calling since she was in first grade. She spent a year in Minnetonka before finding a home in ISD 728.
“We’re a big enough school district that we can be cutting edge – we have a lot of resources and there is a lot of working together with fellow teachers because of our size. Yet, our communities have that small town feeling, and so our schools, themselves, do, too. That makes it feel like home here,” she said.
The math “whiz” teaches pre-calculus and algebra at Zimmerman Middle School/High School.
Beaver came to Zimmerman in 2011, after serving a year as a sub. She’s also taught in Lakeville, but took eight years off to “be a mom” before coming back to the classroom.
“I love the collaboration we have at ISD 728. That’s a huge resource for us,” she said. “In fact, there was a comment made at a meeting we had before school started this year that was like … a-ha! It revolutionized a whole unit for us.”
A mother of two, Beaver has also hosted a pair of foreign exchange students. She said the layout of ZMS/ZHS fosters an amazing opportunity to build relationships with students.
“I love the fact we’re a 6 through 12 school,” she said. “You’re able to see and facilitate a lot of mentoring among students. My pre-calc kids are happy to come back and work with my algebra kids each year. They know how much it can help.”
About the Education Minnesota Teacher of the Year program
The Minnesota Teacher of the Year program, now in its 52nd year, is the oldest and most prestigious recognition program in Minnesota to honor excellence in education. The program chooses one teacher to represent Minnesota’s thousands of excellent educators.
Amy Hewett-Olatunde, who teaches writing and English to the all-immigrant student population at LEAP High School in St. Paul, was named 2015 Minnesota Teacher of the Year on May 3, 2015.