BISMARCK — Calling her "one of the best our North Dakota teaching profession has to offer," North Dakota state school Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, along with Gov. Doug Burgum, on Monday, Sept. 30 named Minot elementary school instructor Sara Medalen as North Dakota teacher of the year for 2020.

Medalen, a reading and math interventionist at a Sunnyside Elementary, was among five finalists for the award.

“She is an exceptional instructor who has tremendous love, respect, devotion and high expectations for all her students," Baesler said of Medalen in a statement. "She supports and brings out the best in her students and her colleagues. Sara is an exemplar of what the North Dakota Teacher of the Year is.”

Medalen assists students who are struggling with reading and math at Sunnyside, a K-5 school. She has also started programs to encourage reading, leadership development and physical fitness.

Among them are Books and Braids, in which young girls sign up for appointments for Medalen to braid their hair before school while they read aloud from a book, a news release on the announcement said. Girl Power is a group of young students who do charitable projects and hear presentations from female role models, including public officials, first responders, business people, and athletes. Baesler visited the group at Sunnyside last November to read the children’s book “Grace for President.”

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Gov. Burgum said in a statement that Medalen “goes above and beyond to engage her students with hands-on, innovative experiences that instill courage and curiosity and prepare them to be lifelong learners and problem solvers.”

“We thank Ms. Medalen and all of the finalists for their passion and dedication to empowering students with the knowledge and skills they need to reach their fullest potential,” the governor said.

Medalen said she has “a grateful heart right now. I want to say thank you.”

“I’m proud of the education system in North Dakota. We have one of the best education systems in the nation,” Medalen said. “I hope to communicate with all the educators, so that I can be a spokesperson and advocate for them.”

2020Sara MedalenSunnyside Elementary School
2019Kayla DelzerMapleton Elementary School
2018Leah JuelkeFargo South High School
2017Nanci Jo DauwenSheyenne High School
2016Amy L. NealLewis & Clark Elementary School
2015Dean R. AamodtWahpeton Public Schools
2014Aaron N. KnodelWest Fargo High School
2013Andrea NoonanCheney Middle School
2012Brenda WernerBismarck High School
2011Karen ToavsWilliston Middle School
2010Mary Leonora Eldredge-SandboDes Lacs -Burlington High School
2009Beth EkreCarl Ben Eielson Middle School
2008Verna RasmussenWestside Elementary
2007Marlene SrockBel Air Elementary
2006Fred P. StrandHatton Public School
2005Joan NelsonLongfellow Elementary School
2004David VolkBen Franklin Middle School
2003Jennifer MontgomeryBismarck High School
2002Julia KobleMinot High School—Central Campus
2001Virginia DeitzMadison Elementary School
2000Marianna MalmNorth High School

Baesler and Burgum will host a celebration for the new Teacher of the Year in mid-October.

Five finalists were selected for the 2020 honor: Medalen; Jessica Brandt, a Title 1 English and reading teacher at Casselton’s Central Cass school; Dr. Karyn Chiapella, a special education teacher and intervention specialist at the Scranton public school; Susan Lillian McPherson, an English Learner teacher at Northern Cass Public School in Hunter; and Sara Thompson, an instructional coach and reading specialist at Sweetwater Elementary School in Devils Lake.

Baesler honored and celebrated each of the finalist candidates in their home schools earlier this month.

The applications are evaluated by a selection committee that includes the incumbent Teacher of the Year, representatives from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, and groups representing teachers, school administrators, career and technical education, and nonpublic schools.