Four teachers from school districts in Washington County are among 128 finalists for the state Teacher of the Year award.

The local finalists are Virginia Mancini, who teaches language arts at Mahtomedi High School, and three educators from the South Washington County school district: Logan Carstensen, a science teacher at Lake Middle School in Woodbury; Donna Lloyd, who teaches at Woodbury Elementary School; and Alissa Hill, a teacher at Nuevas Fronteras, a Spanish-immersion program in Cottage Grove.

The award, in its 50th year, is given every year to a prekindergarten to 12th grade teacher, from a public, parochial or private school across the state. This year, the winner will be announced at a May 4 ceremony in Bloomington.

The program is sponsored by Education Minnesota, the state teachers union.

Forest Lake

Whodunit program helps enhance skills in science

Students at Forest Lake Elementary School participated in the Science Museum program that focused on improving science skills through learning crime-scene investigation.

The residency program, which took place from Feb. 3-7 at the elementary school, was led by Science Museum staff. Students were presented with a "crime" on the first day and challenged to get to the bottom of the mystery, according to a Forest Lake school district news release. To do that, they examined and analyzed handwriting, hair, fiber and DNA samples "through grade-level appropriate" activities, the release said.

Every day, they spent an hour learning about various investigative techniques from museum staff.

The museum's residency program also offers courses in archaeology, electricity and water, among other topics.

Spanish immersion program expands to kindergarten

The Forest Lake school district's Spanish immersion program will expand in the 2014-15 school year, giving students entering kindergarten an opportunity to absorb the language and culture of Spanish-speaking countries.

The partial immersion program, which had previously been available only to first-graders, will now be offered at both Lino Lakes and Forest View elementary schools, starting next fall.

"Spanish immersion is a program designed for students whose first language is English and whose families place a high value on their child learning a world language," the district said on its website. "Those students who enroll in Spanish immersion in first grade are able to continue with immersion throughout their elementary school years, if they choose."

The deadline to register is Feb. 28.

District officials said the program is available to both kindergarten and first-grade students who live in the district, as well as open-enrollees.

To enroll, visit the district's website. Contact Joe Mueller at 651-982-8354 or for more information.

Libor Jany