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.

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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.