INSKTER, N.D. -- Midway Public School pre-kindergarten teacher Katie Ralston made a name for herself on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" as one of the United States’ top teachers.
Ralston was one of 100 teachers that DeGeneres honored during a segment of her show on May 14. Ralston’s name scrolled across the screen with the names of teachers across the United States as DeGeneres expressed her appreciation for them.
The teachers who received the recognition were nominated by parents and received a $250 Visa gift card from DeGeneres.
Ralston doesn’t know who nominated her, but is grateful to whoever did, and for the gift card, which came in an email from DeGeneres.
The email said, in part, “You were selected as one of the top educators for Teachers Appreciation Week,” Ralston said.
The email was a surprise, and, thinking it was spam, Ralston initially deleted it. She’s glad that the parent of one of her former students sent her a link to the video of the segment in which she was mentioned, alerting her about the award.
After Ralston watched the link, she retrieved from her computer trash the email, which contained a $250 gift card from DeGeneres.
“From now on, I’ll probably start looking at every email,” said Ralston, who plans to use the money to buy supplies for her classroom. "Teaching is pretty much my life."
Ralston taught 16 4-year-old and 5-year-old boys and girls this school year, the past two months from her home. Besides organizing and helping hand out packets of projects for students, she held weekly Zoom meetings with her students.
“All of the kids were so excited to Zoom. We had a picnic and did show-and-tell,” said Ralston, who also created a Facebook page where her students and their parents could keep in touch with her, and with each other.
“I put on videos of myself teaching or reading stories,” said Ralston, who also encouraged parents to post pictures of their children reading and playing outside. “I still have parents that are sending me pictures. I hope they will continue to do that throughout the summer. I think that’s a good way to keep up with their friends.”
Pre-kindergarten parent Amy Grabanski called Ralston a “fantastic” teacher. Grabanski’s daughter, Everly, just finished pre-kindergarten, and Ralston taught her older sister, Emma, a few years ago.
“She really does a fantastic job. My kids adore her,” Grabanski said. “She treats the kids like they are her own.”
Ralston went above and beyond her teaching duties during the past two months after the coronavirus pandemic hit, and in-classroom instruction ended, Grabanski said.
“We Facetimed her because my daughter missed her," she said.
Meanwhile, the pictures that Ralston encouraged parents to post on Facebook, helped students remain connected to one another.
“She made it feel like we were still in school,” Grabanski said.
Ralston’s efforts gave them a sense of normalcy during the pandemic, said Erin Dickson, the mother of Thomas, another one of Ralston's students.
Thomas’ social and motor skills blossomed under Ralston’s guidance, Dickson said. He learned to sort by color, count to 30 and write his name, all while having fun.
“She is the most engaging preschool teacher I’ve seen in my entire life,” Dickson said.