Red River teacher receives Air and Space Forces Association state Teacher of the Year award

Joseph Ostgarden, RRHS science teacher and VEX Robotics advisor, selected for the honor

Red River coach Joseph Ostgarden
In this Herald file photo, Red River High School teacher and VEX Robotics advisor Joseph Ostgarden (red shirt) referees a VEX Robotics Skills competition at Valley Middle School involving teams from Valley, Schroeder, and South Middle Schools, as well as Red River and Central high schools. Competing in a preliminary round are Alex Gores, Valley, second from right, and Erik Walker from Schroeder, right. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — Joseph Ostgarden, a science teacher at Red River High School, has been selected by the Air and Space Forces Association (AFA) to receive the 2022 AFA North Dakota Teacher of the Year Award.

The award program recognizes classroom teachers for their accomplishments in exciting students in grades K-12 about science, technology, engineering and math — otherwise known as STEM fields — and preparing students to use and contribute to tomorrow’s technologies.

In addition to his teaching role, Ostgarden also serves as an advisor at Red River High School for VEX Robotics, Science Olympiad and SkillsUSA.

He built the RRHS VEX Robotics club “from the ground up, each year increasing the number of registered teams and students participating,” said Eric Ripley, executive director of career and technical education and technology for Grand Forks Public Schools. “Mr. Ostgarden’s teams have demonstrated great success in the various tournaments.”

The RRHS team recently won the 2022 North Dakota State VEX Robotics Tournament for the sixth consecutive year, Ripley said.


This past spring, Ostgarden was named the AFA Chapter Teacher of the Year.

As the 2022 AFA North Dakota Teacher of the Year, he will receive a $500 check, pin, jacket and certificate. He was one of 23 state Teacher of the Year award recipients.

“Mr. Ostgarden is a champion of STEM, not only in our school system but across the state,” Ripley said. “He has been instrumental in the development and growth of VEX Robotics within Grand Forks and North Dakota. His passion and energy for providing STEM-based opportunities for students both during and after school make him very deserving of this prestigious award.”

The AFA Teacher of the Year program dates back to the early 1990s, when the organization launched the effort to recognize K-12 classroom teachers for innovative and successful instructional programs.

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Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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