Area educators honored as Educators of Excellence

Sourcewell recognized 59 educators from 21 school districts and two education districts in Region 5 at the 2019 Educators of Excellence Event on Wednesday, May 8, at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa.

Those honored included the following area educators (l to r, top row): Kay Sawyer, Pine River-Backus Public School; Matt Ingman, Pequot Lakes Middle School; Janna Blanski, Crosslake Community School; (l to r, bottom row) Jon Thorson, Pequot Lakes High School; Cheri Lemberg, Pine River-Backus Elementary School, and Michele Zeidler, Eagle View Elementary School.
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Sourcewell recognized 59 educators from 21 school districts and two education districts in Region 5 at the 2019 Educators of Excellence Event on Wednesday, May 8, at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa.

Those honored included the following area educators: Janna Blanski, Crosslake Community School; Matt Ingman, Pequot Lakes Middle School; Jon Thorson, Pequot Lakes High School; Michele Zeidler, Eagle View Elementary School; Cheri Lemberg, Pine River-Backus Elementary School; and Kay Sawyer, Pine River-Backus Public School.

Nominated by their respective schools for their commitment to excellence, these educators demonstrate best practices, leadership and innovation in education, which leads to increased student success.

Following is what Sourcewell shared in a news release about each area educator:

• Blanski: Janna knows when to listen and when to ignore, is reflective, gives emotional support to her students, has excellent communication skills with parents, staff and students, shares her knowledge and is helpful to staff. She is also willing to step out of her comfort zone to help others and has a wonderful sense of humor. She has high expectations of her students and uses praise authentically. She is also ENVoY certified and she runs an amazing IEP.


• Ingman: Matt is a teacher who models exemplary ability, not only as an eighth grade earth science teacher, but also in his ability to make connections with all of his students. Matt's instruction helps kids dive deep into the world of scientific inquiry, all while caring deeply about the students he serves, making them laugh every day. Beyond the classroom, Matt is active in instructional leadership, not only formally through building and district leadership teams, but also informally, as an active participant in professional learning communities.

• Thorson: Jon is a veteran teacher who displays the flexibility and aptitude every principal desires. As a math teacher, Jon has adopted a philosophy that seeks to teach math concept over procedure. He has developed a curriculum that places these concepts in the context of relevant, real-world examples that students can relate to. His success with students begins with a mission to develop meaningful, authentic relationships that convey a sense of mutual respect. Building on these relationships, Jon adapts his curriculum to meet student needs, makes himself available outside of classroom hours and reaches out to struggling learners to support their growth in every area of life.

• Zeidler: As a dynamic kindergarten teacher, Michele strives to ensure an effective learning experience for her students to achieve mastery. This is evident through a student-centered, inquiry-based classroom design and collaborative push-in model for instruction. She focuses on the needs of each individual learner and personalizes their learning. Michele's dedication to excellence and innovation extends beyond the classroom through PLCs, building level teams and leading professional development. She is the on-site lead for implementation of a new reading curriculum and has supported a grateful staff developing materials and providing trainings.

• Lemberg: As a second grade teacher at Pine River-Backus Elementary School, Cheri is a huge advocate for students and her fellow colleagues. She continually models a growth mindset by looking for ways to improve her craft by asking great questions, participating in professional development, collaborating with colleagues, continually searching for best practice and being a teacher leader. She relentlessly works to meet the needs of each and every student in her classroom.

• Sawyer: Kay has been an educator in the Pine RIver-Backus School system since 1987, teaching primary classroom, Title 1, physical education and coaching. She's currently in the ALC setting working with at-risk youth. Kay embraces unique challenges and provides students with a meaningful education while providing the encouragement, empathy and support needed. Kay has shown great initiative by developing new courses and adding meaningful instructional practices. She keeps her courses engaging and challenging, while accommodating learners who struggle. She connects with students and provides them with the encouragement needed to stay in school and obtain their diploma.

In addition to recognizing Educators of Excellence, Sourcewell also honored Jeannie Mayer, of Menahga Elementary School, as a Leader of Excellence; Wendy Neugebauer, of Brainerd Public Schools, and Ruth Brueland ,of Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Elementary School, as Paraprofessionals of Excellence; Leo Pohlkamp, of Pierz School District, as a Coach of Excellence; and the Special Education Team at Crosby-Ironton High School as a Team of Excellence.

Katy Smith, 2011 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, was the event's keynote speaker.


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