Greg Gearey, a math teacher at Brainerd High School, was one of 59 educators from around the state honored at Sourcewell's Educators of Excellence event May 8, at Grand View Lodge.

The annual celebration honors educators for their innovative work in and out of the classroom, as well as their dedication, hard work and leadership.

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Brainerd High School principal Andrea Rusk nominated Gearey for this year's honor, emphasizing his dedication to personalizing instruction to each student's ability, as well as his capacity to create important relationships with students, staff and parents.

"Greg takes great ownership in his students' learning," Rusk said in a news release. "He takes time to learn and understand the abilities of each student, then works to individualize his instruction to meet their needs. His work ethic and preparation are second to none. In his professional life, he is a teacher and a coach; but, always a teacher first."

Gearey, an educator in the district since 1995, said he enjoys being in a position where he can help students become productive, problem-solving citizens.

"The best thing about teaching is the conversations with kids; being able to explain concepts and watch them be successful," he said. "It's fun when they come back after graduation and you're able to see the career path they took."

In addition to recognizing Educators of Excellence, Sourcewell also honored Jeannie Mayer of Menahga Elementary as a Leader of Excellence; Wendy Neugebauer of Brainerd Public Schools and Ruth Brueland of Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Elementary 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.

"It truly is an honor to have this opportunity to publicly recognize the people in our communities making a big impact on the lives of children," Sourcewell Manager of Education Solutions Kassidy Rice said in a news release. "While we recognize this is only a small sampling of the outstanding educators throughout our area, we are grateful for the contributions they make day in and day out to help our schools thrive."

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