A Minneapolis Public Schools kindergarten educator has been named the 2021-22 Education Support Professional of the Year by Education Minnesota.

Tequila Laramee, an associate educator at Bethune Community School in north Minneapolis, was honored for her hard work and dedication to her students, the educators union said. In the classroom, Laramee assists with small literacy and math groups as well as behavioral, social and emotional support for students.

Laramee said she had no idea she was nominated for the award or that there even was such a statewide honor. She was nominated by Greta Callahan, the teacher who worked with Laramee for six years before becoming Minneapolis Federation of Teachers chapter president.

Nomination letters, essay questions and interviews at Education Minnesota followed her nomination.

"From there, I got the call on my birthday, which was a good birthday present, that I won," Laramee said.

She began her career with the Minneapolis district 10 years ago and has been an associate educator at Bethune for the past seven years.

"She is able to connect with our students in such a caring and loving way that all the children feel safe and secure in her presence," Kari Ehlers, the kindergarten teacher who works with Laramee told Education Minnesota. "Tequila also has made many impactful relationships with families, reaching out regarding students, providing support and helping families feel our Bethune love."

Being an educator in her community is rewarding, Laramee said,

"Seeing that I make an impact on the young ones' lives, seeing that they love coming to school, that they are learning, that makes an impact on their lives," she said.

Laramee began her career in south Minneapolis and was excited to return to north Minneapolis, where she was born and raised.

"It's my roots; it's where I grew up. They need people that look like them in their lives, showing them, like, what they can become," she said of her students.

Laramee recalled fondly the only Black teacher she encountered while growing up.

"It was amazing to see a teacher who looked like me. She was so beautiful and I sat right next to her," she said. "It was an eye opener."

Laramee hopes to finish her teaching license, but with just seven classes left to complete, she had to put school on hold for financial reasons. She said she wants to become a school counselor for middle and high school students to help encourage them and keep them in school.

As the Minnesota Education Support Professional of the Year, Laramee will receive an Apple iPad and a $1,200 honorarium, which she will put toward finishing her license. Laramee will also be nominated for the National Education Association's award and receive an all-expenses paid trip to the awards ceremony, if it is held in person.