Forty-nine educators from Region Five schools were honored by the National Joint Powers Alliance Wednesday night at its fifth-annual Educators of Excellence Awards Banquet at Grand View Lodge, near Nisswa.

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.

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"It is an honor to celebrate the hard work and dedication of educators throughout our area schools," said Kassidy Rice, the NJPA leader of education solutions, in a news release. "Tonight's event featured individuals who were nominated by their colleagues for recognition, which speaks volumes. We are thankful for their commitment to their students, schools, and communities."

NJPA honored Teachers of Excellence, plus celebrated four additional awards: Leader of Excellence, Paraprofessional of Excellence, Coach of Excellence, and Team of Excellence. Honorees are from school districts within Region Five, or Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties.

Leader of Educational Excellence

Josh Smith, Pillager Elementary School principal.

Paraprofessional of Educational Excellence

Barb Waldock, Mid-State Education District.

Coach of Educational Excellence

Bruce Fuhrman, Staples-Motley School District (head coach-cross country & girls track, assistant coach-boys basketball).

Team of Educational Excellence

Crosby-Ironton Grades 7-12 English Language Arts teachers-Katherine Thoennes, Jackie Larson, Andrea Gaffney, and Brian Gaffney.