After years of no teacher-of-the-year candidates, the Shakopee School District takes a giant step forward.
Since 2006, no teacher from the Shakopee School District has been nominated for Minnesota teacher of the year — until this year.
Now Shakopee has 10 teachers nominated, the most of any district in the state, according to Education Minnesota, which gives out the award.
The winner will be announced in early May at a banquet attended by the 39 semifinalists selected last week by the group, which has 70,000 educators as members.
Among those making the semifinal list were two of the 10 teachers nominated from Shakopee: Amanda Marek and Edward Loiselle.
In order to be considered, a teacher has to accept the nomination and prepare a portfolio of work that judges can use to determine a winner.
A total of 139 teachers from dozens of districts chose to participate in the program this year.
Shakopee has almost 600 teachers, and Superintendent Rod Thompson said that in the past it has been hard to get them to accept the nominations for the award.
“We have a group of teachers who have that Minnesota humility,” Thompson said. “They would rather look down and rub their toe in the dirt than be singled out.”
Marek agrees with that assessment, noting that she had to be talked into accepting the nomination, which was submitted by one of her peers, and into putting a portfolio of work together for the competition.
“I did have to be talked into submitting a portfolio,” said Marek, who teaches eighth-grade English and also an innovative Spanish class for ninth-grade native speakers. “We are accustomed to working together.”
Teachers and educators cannot pinpoint one specific thing the district did this year to get so many nominees.
But district leaders said there has been an emphasis over the past couple of years at creating more collaboration and team-building across grade levels and school levels. There also has been more involvement with the teachers’ union in providing training to educators year-round.
Jayne Gibson, the district’s director of teaching and learning, said there has been an emphasis on experienced teachers serving as mentors to new teachers in the district.
District officials also have been telling teachers that it is OK to ask for help — and by extension that it is OK to provide help in solving problems.
This has helped break the group mentality that might have held some teachers back from stepping into the spotlight regarding their methods. The end result, Gibson said, is a culture where teachers know that “it is OK to learn from one another.”
“We have such a humble group,” Gibson said. “They really wanted to be recognized as teachers and not as individuals. We have a tendency to be Minnesota Nice.”