When Kurt Bills clinched his party's endorsement this weekend, he knew what he wanted the next day's headline to be: GOP Endorses Public School Teacher for US Senate.
So it was no surprise that the Monday morning after the state Republican convention found the candidate back in the classroom, instead of out on the campaign trail.
The school year at Rosemount High School ends next week, and that's when Bills plans to climb aboard a retrofitted blue school bus and launch his full-time campaign against one of the most popular politicians in the state -- incumbent U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
But for now, there are textbooks to collect and last-minute life lessons to hand down to the seniors in his first-period advanced placement economics class.
"If you want to write a diatribe against me, I completely understand and it's probably well deserved," Bills joked, as he urged students to fill out an evaluation of the year's lessons in microeconomics and macroeconomis. He wants to know what he can improve next year -- if he comes back next year to teach. "Think all way back to the beginning -- what worked in the course? What was good for you, what was bad for you?"
This being an advanced-placement class, the students agreed that what Mr. Bills' class really needed was more quizzes, and steps to ensure that students who didn't do the required reading couldn't fudge the answers in class.
"Never do we waver from the path of economic knowledge," Bills joked as the students laughed and wrote faster.
“He’s a really quirky guy,” said senior Sara Devitt, who popped her head into the room before class to congratulate Bills on his weekend convention win. “Econ doesn’t sound very fun…But he’s so good at balancing the fun with econ, keeping it upbeat and keeping it very positive…I think it’s been a blast.”
Bills, she said, knows how to keep students interested in potentially dry subjects like microeconomics. One day, he put on some Van Halen, cranked up the volume, and yelled the day’s lesson over the soundtrack.
He kept teaching economics as he ran for local political office, then the statehouse and now for national office. Devitt said students have been following his campaigns with interest.
“We’re all very supportive, even if we’re not in the same political party,” she said. “He’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.”