Teacher of the year finalists recognized

Angie Klaassen, who is a teacher at Webster Learning Center, receives her nomination as a Teacher of the Year finalist. She is one of three and says she is honored.

This year the St. Joseph School District got creative in handing out Teacher of the Year finalist awards.

Typically, finalists are recognized during the St. Joseph School District Foundation’s annual tribute to teachers and staff in April.

“We had a pool of 15 teacher applicants, which we reviewed applications the past few weeks and today and yesterday. It’s such a great day, because we get to kind of surprise them as much as we can with their awards as being one of the three finalists,” Corinne Russell, a teacher at Central High School and a recent Teacher of Year, said.

Russell explained narrowing down the pool of applicants was difficult as they were all a perfect fit. The applications were reviewed multiple times with the selection committee investing a lot of time and consideration.

While it is important to recognize teachers and staff for everything they do every year, this year has provided many different challenges.

”It’s been a difficult time for teachers. We miss our students. Teaching is about so much more than just delivering content and we miss the interactions, we miss the students we miss the life in the building. We understand because it’s been a difficult time, but we miss our kids and we hope to see them again soon,” Colin Pettegrew, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math at Robidoux Middle School and a Teacher of the Year finalist, said.

Another finalist, Angie Klaassen, who is the focus room facilitator at Webster Learning Center, had this to say about recognizing teachers, “I think honoring and recognizing those that do work hard, that do put kids first, that do look at the world from a completely different perspective kind of helps open the public’s eyes to see that. They’re more than just kids who run in the streets — they have a lot going on and it’s our job to help guide them along with families to make good choices and to grow into successful residents of St. Joseph.”

Pettegrew shares his gratitude with his fellow teachers and staff. “I learned a lot from my colleagues, probably way more than they would ever learn from me. I just really love what I do. It feels really good to be recognized, but I, in part, feel like that I’m the teacher I am because of the people that I’ve learned from here at Robidoux.”

Russell, who is now on the committee that selected the finalists, talked about how it was an honor to pass the Teacher of Year Award to the next teacher.

”It recognizes what you do as a teacher, but I think it recognizes what everybody around you does to support the work that you do as a teacher,” Russell said.

However, this is only the cherry on top and shows no end in the journey of teaching for the finalists.

”I learn something new every year and I open myself up to new learning. I’m as much a student as the students are, and so there’s no end point,” Klaassen said.

The third finalist along with Klaassen and Pettegrew is Heather Wiedmer, who teaches at Carden Park Elementary. The process continues next week, where the committee will be conducting interviews to make the final selection of Teacher of the Year for 2020-21.

Maykayla Hancock can be reached at makayla.hancock@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @NPNowHancock.