Three area school districts — South Washington County, Stillwater and North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale — had several candidates named recently for the 2015 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award.
Leading the way was South Washington County, which has six candidates, according to a list released Feb. 3 by Education Minnesota, the state teachers union. Altogether, 123 candidates are vying for the annual honor — now in its 51st year.
Teachers nominated for the award will be interviewed by a 25-member panel of community leaders and educators. The winner is to be announced on May 3.
The South Washington County candidates are: Lanka Liyanapathiranage, who teaches language arts at Woodbury Middle School; James Magee, kindergarten, Cottage Grove Elementary; Diane Munson, fifth grade, Red Rock Elementary; Colleen Redmond, fourth grade, Bailey Elementary; Amanda Sage, special education, Hillside Elementary; and Gina Tester, physical education, Cottage Grove Elementary.
The Stillwater Area Public Schools and North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District both had two candidates nominated for the award. In the Stillwater district, Rebecca Gauker teaches science at Oak-Land Junior High, and Rachel Steil teaches language arts at Stillwater Area High. In the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale district, Stephen Dombrosk teaches world history and religions at North High, and Julie Swanson teaches third grade at Cowern Elementary.
Other local candidates include:
• Angela Butler, a world languages teacher at Forest Lake Area High.
• Cindy Morreim, a fifth-grade teacher at O.H. Anderson Elementary in the Mahtomedi school district.
• Tony Walfoort, a social studies teacher on the north campus of White Bear Lake Area High.
Jacobus receives positive evaluation
The South Washington County school board said in its midyear evaluation of Superintendent Keith Jacobus that it was pleased with his performance, passion and vision.
“Dr. Jacobus is a leader of great integrity. He works incredibly hard and long hours, and he is dedicated to the students and community,” Board Chairman Ron Kath wrote in a summary report presented to colleagues on Feb. 5. “Dr. Jacobus is leading the district in the right direction.”
Jacobus was commended for outreach efforts that include hosting “parent university” sessions and coffee meetings with community members. In addition, Jacobus has set a “higher standard of accountability” for the district and has communicated openly “even when dealing with difficult issues,” Kath said.
Areas of concern include a need to give Jacobus more time for long-range strategic planning, as opposed to short-term problem-solving, Kath said. He also said Jacobus should help other leaders be more visible and influential within the school community.
Jacobus is in his third year as superintendent. The board will give him a year-end review after the 2014-15 school year.
FFA student earns regional ‘star’ status
Forest Lake Area High is home to a well-regarded chapter of the National FFA Organization, also known as Future Farmers of America, and now has seen one of its students, Joe Ramstad, earn recognition as a “Region IV Star in AgriScience.”
The honor was due, in part, to Ramstad having taught agricultural literacy classes in the Forest Lake district’s community education program.
“My goal is to become a high school agricultural education teacher,” Ramstad said in a district news release.
According to the Minnesota FFA Association website, the Region IV FFA includes 25 local chapters, including Forest Lake, Northeast Metro 916 and Stillwater.