The 2019-2020 school year did not end the way anyone thought or wanted it to. Our students spent the last two months learning from home and our teachers spent it trying to adjust and come up with new ways to teach them. I'm sure it was not an easy transition and some subjects had to certainly be more difficult (if not downright impossible) to teach online than others.

So congratulations teachers! You did it! You learned from the experience and adapted. And it will, no doubt, come in handy in the future.

Now that the school year has come to an end, and you prepare this summer for an uncertain future, we thought we should take a moment and say THANK YOU to all of our Minnesota teachers.

We also wanted to, once again, congratulate all of the 2019-2020 "Teacher of the Week' recipients. These teachers were secretly nominated by residents and students in Central Minnesota. We were honored to be able to recognize them.


2019-2020 'Teacher of the Week' Recipients:


Shannon Girard / Special Education / Rocori Middle School

David Black

Shannon is a special education teacher at Rocori Middle School, She does not teach her children to be special needs. She teaches them to have pride in what they accomplish and make them want more in that process. They look forward to coming to school to learn. She has brought the program many useful tools she has learned and the students love her for it. She is a fair teacher not one to let some fall behind. She truly gives a lot of herself. She even takes all the pictures for the school’s yearbook. She gives a lot of her own personal time. I believe Shannon should win this award, She also teaches golf and volleyball. She gives her all and I hope she can be rewarded this honor. - Julie Kleve



Kathy Gilk / Language Arts / Albany Middle School

Kathy Gilk

Kathy is such an amazing wife, mom, teacher, niece and friend . Kathy loves her class of students and wants them to know she truly cares about them. Kathy takes pride in teaching and helping students learn, if a student is struggling she takes the extra time to help them. Kathy always has a smile on her face. Kathy is married to Steven Gilk and they have three sons Isaiah, Jackson and Andrew. -  Ruth Wiechmann

Jill Ambrosier / 2nd Grade / Oak Ridge Elementary

I have 4 children ranging from kindergarten-11th grade. We have had many awesome teachers in the past but Mrs. Ambrosier is phenomenal!!! I have never met a teacher that is more thorough on a daily basis. I feel like I am always updated on what is going on each day with pictures and updates. You can see how much time she takes to correct papers, I don’t think I have seen a worksheet come home without encouraging words on it. On a couple of occasions already this year she has gone above and beyond and even sent my son some things in the mail, we all know how much 2nd graders LOVE receiving mail. I feel blessed that my son is off to such an amazing start this school year and I believe a lot of is thanks to her extra effort. - Casey Gallus


Pam Cimenski / Pre-School / Royalton Elementary

Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and has worked through all her surgeries, double mastectomy chemo, radiation, to keep her health coverage. She has another surgery in two weeks and still continues to teach.

She loves to watch her kids grow. She also enjoys teaching color games ,sign language, arts, and crafts. She also had fun planning  the Halloween party.  Ms. Pam makes learning fun.

Tamela Stoeckel


Kim Genereux / Kindergarten / Mississippi Heights Elementary

Alli Mae

I would like to nominate my daughter Kim. She has been the lead teacher at Mississippi Heights Kindergarten for 9 years. I have seen huge changes in the kids after they leave her class. She is VERY dedicated. Putting in extra time away from her family to make sure the kids at school are first. Kim goes the extra mile to teach kids. Fun, entertaining, patient and dependable. All the parents want their kids in her classroom. She is a natural born leader. One word: Excellent! - Susan Nelson


Missy O'Connell / Kindergarten / Athlos Academy

Missy was my son's kindergarden teacher (he's in 2nd grade now) and still plays an active roll in his life. She always makes time to say hi to former students and encourage them when they need encouraging. She makes time to chat with me when I need advice to comfort my son. She even helped us with baseball equipment for my kids. She is the best teacher ever. - Lisa Larson



Joel Pohland / High School Band Teacher / Pierz Healy High School

Mr. Pohland has been such a great teacher. He is always at school, whether he is helping students in lessons or coaching golf; and he always does it with a smile on his face. He genuinely loves what he does, you can see it on his face when you walk through the door. He loves to have fun in the classroom, as you can see every Friday with his painfully unfunny jokes. From giving great advice to being passionate to doing little things to show his appreciation for every student, Mr. Pohland, is one of a kind and we are all very thankful to have him as a teacher. - Jazmine Dickmann, Jaron Gross, Mariah Olesch, Tori Mitchell, Levi Block, Duncan Osborne, Abby Nelson (students)


Estelle Turck / 3rd Grade / Madison Elementary

Mrs. Turck puts in countless hours each and every week just to make the lives of her students infinitely better. No matter what situations her students might have to deal with outside of school, she ensures that every hour spent with her is positive and filled with compassion so that her kids feel safe and cared for. While teachers notoriously have a busy schedule, Mrs. Turck still spends her "breaks" throughout the day eating lunch with her students or playing outside with them at recess, even if it means spending another 2-3 hours at school herself after the bell rings getting caught up and ready to do it all again. And that's not to mention the half-day she puts in nearly each and every Saturday of the week in order to be ready for the next five days!!! While some would view this as working too hard, in Estelle's case, it is her passion to make the lives of her students better and she does all that she can to make that happen. - Kyle Turck


Ryan Heitland / AVID / North Junior High (St. Cloud)

Ryan Heitland looks for unique ways to reach his students and engage them in his lessons in a way that each student benefits from. He has a fun loving approach and genuinely cares about all his students and their academic success. He tries to prepare them for not only high school, but also life. He deals with a variety of students from different cultures, and tries to implement items into his lessons that the students can relate. Ryan tries to bridge the gap between the diverse student body to create a comfortable environment that students can put aside barriers and learn together. He believes in treating kids with a an approach which allows them to feel valued and creates a way for them to openly talk to them about their problems inside and outside of school, so he can help them the best he can! - Cory Grafft

Christopher Magnuson / 3rd Grade / Pine Meadow Elementary


Mr. Magnuson is really nice. He takes time to work with us. He takes time away from correcting papers to make fun things for us. He treats all his students with respect and encouragement. - Kiara


Melissa Johnson / 3rd Grade / Rice Elementary School

Townsquare Media Staff

SHE LOVES ALL HER KIDS FROM YEAR TO YEAR. SHE IS VERY PROUD OF EACH AND EVERY ONE AND HAS NOTHING BAD TO SAY ABOUT ANY OF THEM. SHE IS SUPER FRIENDLY AND GIVES A WARM VIBE WHEN AROUND HER. Thank you Melissa for making a difference in the lives of these students and the people around you. - Sarah and Laura Anderson


Myke Zimmerman (Zim) / 5th & 6th STEM / Long Prairie-Grey Eagle

Abbey Minke

Myke Zimmerman (Zim), donates extra time to his kids by running the STEM (science technology, engineering, math) program. He also helps coach football, as well as track.
He's the kind of teacher that makes you, want to come and learn. The way he teaches about plants and animals makes it really interesting. The fun and intense experiments that he conducts are informative and entertaining. Plus, there's always Owl pellet day!
Myke also is the president of Pheasants forever, Todd county chapter. He is also the best dad to 4 kids, as well as 7 grandchildren. Everyone would agree that he's a legitimately wonderful guy. - Benjamin Lee Hatton

Joel McDonough / Math / Holdingford High School

Joel goes above and beyond in all that he does. This is more than evident with his students and co-workers. His kindness and generosity is evident in both his professional and private lives. In a time where more and more of our youth struggle, he provides emotional support and is a positive male role model. He is not only a committed teacher but also an invested coach. He even helps adults as he did when he tutored this writer during his free time in studying for the GRE for graduate school, accepting no compensation. If someone is in need, no matter what that need is, mention it to Joel and he’s there! My niece and nephews had the privilege of having Joel as a teacher and shared many stories of the benefits they received in this. I believe Joel is more than deserving of this award and appreciate your consideration of this nomination. - Shelli Struzyk


Mary Levinski / Culinary Arts / Sauk Rapids-Rice High School

Photo: David Black

Mrs. Levinski goes above and beyond for all of her students. She takes time to interact with everyone giving us a great learning experience in culinary arts. She gets to the high school at 5am on Wednesdays and Fridays to cook scones for our weekly breakfast shop. She makes sure we aren’t just trying American food but other cultures food. She does so much for every student at SRRHS. - Cole Bonovsky

Anne Zidon / Language Arts /Sartell High School

Hello, I am a freshman at the new Sartell High School. I would like to nominate Mrs. Zidon for the Teacher of the Week award. I think that Mrs. Zidon is a good representative for this award because she is fun, awesome, funny, amazing, and super cool! Her first year teaching at Sartell was three years ago in 2016-17, when I was in sixth grade. Back then she was Miss Jensen. My Grade was the first class of students she ever taught in Sartell. I remember liking her from the moment I walked into the classroom. After that year, she moved up to the high school to teach ninth grade. Luckily for me, after many years of hoping and praying, I got her once again for the end of this year. Even if it is for only one quarter/term, I know I will have a great time. Mrs. Zidon is a perfect nominee for the Teacher of the Week award because she is funny, awesome, amazing, super fun, and cool. She isn't afraid to be her weird, goofy self. She is a younger teacher, so I feel like it is easier for her to relate to us students because not too long ago, she was in our shoes. She really has done so much for me, for us students. I just want to pay her back for everything she's done, even though no amount of words or actions could express my thanks to her. Thank You Mrs. Zidon!

 - Emily Brown


Cortney Ryan / 3rd Grade / John Clark Elementary School

Photo: Abbey Minke

Ms. Ryan has been an amazing mentor for her class. She truly cares about every student in the school. Ms.Ryan was my son's second grade teacher, she made a strong bond with her class and felt it appropriate to move to the third grade with them. She knew that knowing each student and their individual needs going into the new school year, would be beneficial for everyone's learning. My son didn't like school until Ms. Ryan made learning fun. Now he loves school and is excited to learn! Ms. Ryan tells her students that she will always have their backs even when she isn't their teacher anymore. She comes to their football games, dresses in fun outfits for special school days, guides us parents through the hard stuff, and encourages her students to do their very best! We appreciate Ms. Ryan more than she will ever know! - Beth Schmitz

Aaron Stupar / 3rd Grade / Becker Intermediate School

Mr. Stupar has a way of getting EVERY kid to love school and reading! He shares his love of reading each and every day with the kids. He even has his own mom come in weekly to share the love of reading. My daughter comes home so excited about school and has many stories to share. She has shared so many examples of how Mr. Stupar goes above and beyond each day. He spends his lunch time helping kids, he plays with them during their flex time, he makes sure every child has what they need to be successful, he jokes with the kids to make a challenging situation light hearted. He is very calm, and just an overall kind hearted person. He really loves his job!

-Courtney Backes (Aubree’s Mom)

Cari Hansen / In-Step/Discovery Community School

There are ten thousand reasons that Cari Hansen deserves Teacher of the Week. Cari is an In-Step teacher at Discovery. A school for students with moderate to severe disabilities that are eligible to continue education services from ages 18-21. Teaching in this program is not easy. This isn't a job. This is a passionate calling. Cari worked with our son Tyler when he was beginning high school so we were super excited that she would be working with him again at In-Step. Over the past 3.5 years the time, emotion and energy that she's invested into her students and our son is nothing less than astonishing. Cari goes above and beyond to learn what each individual student needs in order to learn. If the student is non verbal she ensures that they have the best adaptive equipment available. If the student loves animals she designs her lessons for that individual around animals to engage the student, allowing them to learn and be comfortable. If they need pictures schedules you can bet your last dollar that each day that student will have a picture schedule ready and waiting. Cari makes everyone feel as though they are her favorite! Whenever Tyler is out of school for the day Cari will message us to check in and see how he's doing. She often sends a message of encouragement and a "Hope you're back tomorrow buddy. Everyone misses you". She knows that my son needs to know that he's not being forgotten

Cari does all of this while also taking care of her 6 year old son who is special needs. Numerous times throughout the school year Cari needs to travel to the twin cities to bring her son to specialists. Guess who still doesn't take the day off? Cari! She still manages to check in and see how her students are doing. The entire team at In-Step deserve a huge shout out. I'm not able to pay her or her team for all that they've done for these students, our son or for us, but maybe she can be chosen for this award and get a sweet surprise for all that she gives to others. - Michelle Suarez



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