The 2020 Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be chosen from a list of 134 nominees, and Jody Kelly, an eighth grade teacher at St. Michael-Albertville’s Middle School West, is among the nominees.
Kelly has been teaching middle-level students at STMA since 2001, mostly in eighth-grade language arts.
“The idea of helping others was something that I was born with,” Kelly explained on her decision to become an educator. “As I got older, I loved helping others find a way to fit in and creating ways to build on their individual strengths.”
Middle School West Principal, Andy Merfeld, said he nominated Kelly for the award because he said he’s seen the energy and creativity she brings throughout each school year.
“She provides a spark to students, our staff, and the entire school,” Merfeld said.
Merfeld said Kelly is passionate about building relationships with students and reconnecting struggling or frustrated students with an interest in reading.
Kelly said the news of her nomination made her feel humbled to be noticed and recognized, but reflective over all of the STMA staff members who made her who she is today, from custodians, to administrators, to her fellow teaching staff.
“I have been surrounded with the most caring, positive, can-do, inspiring people there are,” she said. “I think of what a rich life I have been blessed with. This nomination is a reflection of the positive impact they have made on my life.”
Kelly on Teaching Teens
When asked what the public should know about teaching today’s adolescents, Kelly said they should know that all students have a good heart.
“Middle schoolers are quirky and just trying to figure out who they really are,” she said. “Adolescents need more positive, real-life role models with high expectations, that are willing to take and show them the right path. Volunteers, coaches, teachers, parents, neighbors, and religious figures all have a part in raising our teens.”
She also said the public should know that STMA students need the community to keep fighting for them.
“Our STMA kiddos are not getting a fair shake in their educational opportunities when being compared to other districts,” she said. “They deserve more opportunities. We need equitable funding; their futures depend on it.”
Contributions to Middle School West
Kelly’s coworker, Kari Brett, said Kelly is the most positive person she knows, and said she adds a “tish” of fun to Middle School West on a regular basis.
“In the 12 years we have worked together she has come up with so many creative and fun ways to teach kids,” Brett said. “She also has helped build community in our school by starting our Knights’ Honor Program, where we focus on character education and recognize kids for more than good grades, but for being good humans.”
“Mrs. Kelly works tirelessly inside her classroom as well as within our school to impact students,” Merfeld added. “This includes the language arts she teaches, the programs she leads or supports, and her creativity and ideas to make our school a better experience for all. We are very fortunate to have her at STMA Middle School West.”
Education Minnesota will announce lists of semifinalists and then finalists in the coming weeks, chosen by a 25-member panel of community leaders. Minnesota’s 56th Teacher of the Year will be announced Sunday, May 3, at the St. Paul RiverCentre.