Association of Metropolitan School Districts

Association of Metropolitan School Districts

Minnesota Senate Listens to Minnesota Teachers of the Year

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The Minnesota Senate Education Committee held a hearing on January 26 to hear from several past Minnesota Teachers of the Year. The teachers shared their perspective on a variety of important and pertinent education issues.

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The Minnesota Teacher of the Year program is over 50 years old and is the oldest recognition program in Minnesota to honor excellence in education. The winners are selected by a committee representing Minnesota leaders in education, business and government. Four Minnesota Teachers of the Year have gone on to become National Teacher of the Year.

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At the January 26 hearing, eight former teachers of the year provided testimony ranging from English Learner programming to online collaborative curriculum. The teachers shared their experience and answered questions from members of the committee. Testifiers included:

Amy Hewett-Olatunde, St. Paul School District, 2015 Teacher of the Year;

Derek Olson, Stillwater School District, 2008 Minnesota Teacher of the Year;

Megan Olivia Hall, St. Paul School District, 2013 Minnesota Teacher of the Year;

Ryan Vernosh,St. Paul School District, 2010 Teacher of the Year;

Tom Rademacher, Minneapolis School District, 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year;

Jake Roehl, Edina Public Schools, 2012 Minnesota Teacher of the Year;

Katy Smith, Winona Area Public Schools, 2011 Minnesota Teacher of the Year; and

Mike Smart, Intermediate District 287, 2007 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

Minnesota Teachers Minnesota Senate

The testifiers highlighted the need for increased investments in English Learner programming and teacher development and training. Several teachers expressed frustration over the increased dependence on assessments and the need for investing in social emotional learning, culturally responsive teaching and mental health and trauma-informed practices. The teachers also shared successful programs they have been a part of including gender inclusion policy development and implementation as well as the development and implementation of a statewide collaborative curriculum. With the expectation that early learning will again be a topic of discussion during the 2016 session, Katy Smith encouraged legislators to support a mixed delivery system and stressed the importance of parent education.

Tom Rademacher discussed the need to first address the mental health and emotional well-being of students and relayed to committee members, “I would be embarrassed to have the chance to sit here and not ask for radical changes in the ways we serve our students.  We owe the communities we have failed for generations, we owe them schools that are staffed with the most successful and culturally literate teachers who are given every possible tool to meet the needs of their students.”

The Minnesota Senate Education Committee will hold several interim hearings before session begins on March 8, 2016. For the list of upcoming hearings, visit the Senate Education Committee Schedule.

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Interested in the 2016 Legislative Session? Read more about AMSD’s Legislative Platform

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