State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Monday celebrated 40 North Dakota educators who are being honored as Teachers of the Year in the counties in which they work.
The County Teachers of the Year were chosen from among 110 educators who were nominated for the honor. Of those 110 nominees, 81 teachers completed applications to be considered. Those applications were screened this month by an eight-member committee that included education group representatives and a former Teacher of the Year.
Baesler founded the annual County Teacher of the Year program to broaden North Dakota’s efforts to recognize and celebrate the work of its teachers. Before it began, the program focused on the state Teacher of the Year honor, which normally has fewer than a half-dozen finalists.
“Our North Dakota teachers have done exceptional and heroic work to meet the learning demands brought about by the pandemic. It is especially appropriate that we step up our efforts across the state to honor and celebrate them,” Baesler said.
The 40 County Teachers of the Year are now eligible to apply for the North Dakota Teacher of the Year honor. The winner will be notified in August. The North Dakota Teacher of the Year will become a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year award, which is selected by the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C.
State law requires the superintendent of public instruction and the governor to jointly host a ceremony and reception to honor the Teacher of the Year, which must be held before Sept. 30, either at the state Capitol or the community where the recipient lives or works.
The 40 North Dakota County Teachers of the Year for 2021 are:
Barnes: Matthew Nielson, Valley City Public Schools
Benson: Mary Broe, Oberon Elementary
Billings: Jennifer O’Brien, Prairie Elementary, Fairfield
Bottineau: Ally Liebelt, Westhope Public School
Bowman: Amy Burke, Bowman County School, Bowman
Burleigh: Erica Quale, Wachter Middle School, Bismarck
Cass: Jessica Magnuson, Carl Ben Eielson Middle School, Fargo
Cavalier: Kim Schneider, Langdon Area Elementary School
Dickey: Liz Schieler, Oakes High School
Dunn: Janis Harris, Killdeer Public School
Emmons: Elizabeth Volk, Strasburg Public School
Foster: Connie Hafner, Carrington Public School
Golden Valley: Lori Rising, Lincoln Elementary, Beach
Grand Forks: Shari Jerde, Grand Forks Community High School
Grant: Sharon Klein, Grant County High School, Elgin
Griggs: Mary Jo Grover, Griggs County Central, Cooperstown
Hettinger: Brenda Meier, Mott/Regent Public School, Mott
Logan: Myla Buckeye, Gackle-Streeter Public School, Gackle
McIntosh: Jessica Schmidt, Ashley Public School
McKenzie: Torrey Larson, East Fairview School
McLean: Teresa Pleinis, Underwood Public School
Mercer: Jacqueline Karges, Hazen Elementary School
Morton: Bobbi Schaff, Hebron Public School
Mountrail: Jacob Hellman, Stanley Elementary School
Nelson: Sarah Johnson, Dakota Prairie School, Petersburg
Pembina: Ashley Johnson, North Border Public School, Pembina
Ramsey: Maari Hanson, Devils Lake Central Middle School
Ransom: Kari Webb, Lisbon Public Schools
Richland: Noel Eckroth, Wahpeton Public Schools
Sargent: Eric Olson, North Sargent Public School, Gwinner
Sioux: Jalisa Cruz, Selfridge Elementary
Stark: Carla Schaeffer, Dickinson Middle School
Steele: Tracy Larson, Finley-Sharon Public School, Finley
Stutsman: Kelly Bauer, William S. Gussner Elementary, Jamestown
Towner: Hannah Alto, North Star Public School, Cando
Traill: Brittany Guttormson, Hillsboro High School
Walsh: Marcus Tucker, Valley-Edinburg High School, Edinburg
Ward: Heather Ell, John Hoeven Elementary, Minot
Wells: Bret Dockter, Harvey Elementary School
Williams: Eric Rooke, Williston High School
Counties without a Teacher of the Year honoree did not have any applicants. North Dakota has 53 counties.
Candidates for both the county and state Teacher of the Year are screened by a committee whose members are specified in North Dakota law.
The committee includes at least one former state Teacher of the Year recipient, a representative of North Dakota’s nonpublic schools and representatives of the Department of Public Instruction, the state Council of Educational Leaders, which represents school administrators, the Department of Career and Technical Education, the North Dakota School Boards Association and North Dakota United, which represents teachers and public employees.