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.”
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.”
Year Recipient School 2020 Sara Medalen Sunnyside Elementary School 2019 Kayla Delzer Mapleton Elementary School 2018 Leah Juelke Fargo South High School 2017 Nanci Jo Dauwen Sheyenne High School 2016 Amy L. Neal Lewis & Clark Elementary School 2015 Dean R. Aamodt Wahpeton Public Schools 2014 Aaron N. Knodel West Fargo High School 2013 Andrea Noonan Cheney Middle School 2012 Brenda Werner Bismarck High School 2011 Karen Toavs Williston Middle School 2010 Mary Leonora Eldredge-Sandbo Des Lacs -Burlington High School 2009 Beth Ekre Carl Ben Eielson Middle School 2008 Verna Rasmussen Westside Elementary 2007 Marlene Srock Bel Air Elementary 2006 Fred P. Strand Hatton Public School 2005 Joan Nelson Longfellow Elementary School 2004 David Volk Ben Franklin Middle School 2003 Jennifer Montgomery Bismarck High School 2002 Julia Koble Minot High School—Central Campus 2001 Virginia Deitz Madison Elementary School 2000 Marianna Malm North 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.