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Ten others honored as Teacher of the Year finalists

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Besides Byrd, 10 other teachers were also finalists for the 2024 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. We asked them to share some reasons why they teach, which we have shared below.

Rachel Betterley

North Woods School
St. Louis County Schools, visual arts, 8-12
“I teach because regardless of our adversities or our circumstances, every child deserves to find their voice, to create, to explore, and to find a path of resilience through education. I teach to heal not just myself, but the world around me.”

Rebecca Buck

Gideon Pond Elementary
Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District, music, K-5
“I teach to see that joy and spark that students get in their eyes when they finally understand a concept or a singing game or an instrument part. I feel most alive when I am working with my students and that is why I teach.”

Susanne Collins

Edgerton Elementary School
Roseville Area Schools, 6
“I get to build real relationships with my students and help them build their self-esteem and gain confidence, to help them feel appreciated, seen and heard. I have the privilege to celebrate their accomplishments and identities every day.”

Sarah Dallum

Valley View Elementary School
Bloomington Public Schools, 5
“I love hearing from my past students about how they’re doing in their life and how they’re successful. My students bring me hope and joy for the future—they are going to be the change. They help me grow and be a better person and a teacher.”

Marie Hansen

Burnsville High School, Burnsville-Eagan-Savage
School District, AVID/English, 10-11
“My students are brilliant, kind, thoughtful and funny. Helping them grow into adults—the next generation who’s going to change the world—is the greatest privilege.”

Laura Jensen

Hopkins North Middle School
Hopkins Public Schools, reading, 7
“I get to spend my day with 11- to 13-year-olds who approach life with fresh eyes and an amazing amount of spunk and quirkiness. I get to come alongside kids and be part of their journey.”

Jason Jirsa

Washburn High School
Minneapolis Public Schools, social studies, 9-12
“I try really hard in my class to remind students that learning is fun because learning is also a lot of hard work. Before they leave my class, I want them to be better researchers, better writers, better collaborators, better communicators. It’s not easy, but I love the challenge—it brings me back every day.”

Michelle Morse-Wendt

Turtle Lake Elementary School
Mounds View Public Schools, 4
“I often think of the world as a giant puzzle: we each have a piece and each of those pieces is unique. With those pieces, we can create something more beautiful and powerful than anything we can create on our own. I teach because I want every person to know their unique selves matter.”

Jamie Williams

Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet School
Saint Paul Public Schools, U.S. history, 7
“When I see the light bulb go off and students understand, make connections, take what they’ve learned and apply it…it gives me the fulfillment of seeing the next generation of students become something great.”

Ellen Wu

 Alice Smith Elementary
Hopkins Public Schools, kindergarten
“My teaching philosophy is based off of forming lifelong partnerships in and out of the classroom. I love that I am able to see my students grow and learn and play as they become active members of society. I get to help set the foundation of their educational journey.”

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