Commissioner Ricker was an advocate for students and trusted voice for educators during the pandemic

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota, March 9, 2021 – Educators are wishing Mary Cathryn Ricker, a nationally board certified teacher, success in her next endeavor after she announced Tuesday that she will resign as the state’s education commissioner effective April 1. 

“Commissioner Ricker speaks to teachers like a teacher,” said Denise Specht, the president of Education Minnesota. “I remember that first news conference after COVID-19 closed the school buildings. She was calming, grounded and inspirational. She made educators feel like they could make the unprecedented transition to distance learning during a health crisis in a week. It was just what educators needed to hear.” 

Specht said she hoped the education equity work Ricker started would continue, including her push to change the high school experience so schools would meet both the academic and social emotional needs of students with the goal of raising the graduation rate to 100 percent.  

“When Commissioner Ricker said Minnesota could be the first state to have a zero dropout rate, I believed her,” Specht said. “This is a meaningful and achievable goal but only if, as she said, schools finally see and support the students who too often slip away.” 

Racial equity was a cornerstone of the commissioner’s 2019-20 school finance taskforce and many of its priorities were reflected in the governor’s new education plan, Due North, Specht said.  

“A plan as ambitious as Due North has many authors, but I have no doubt the commissioner’s contributions behind the scenes made the proposal bolder, more equitable and more practical,” Specht said. “The perspective of an experienced, nationally board certified teacher in those spaces is vital.” 

Ricker’s other legacy will be open doors of the department and its advisory boards to other teachers and educators who work directly with students, Specht said.  

“The education world does not need more bureaucrats at decision-making tables, it needs more teachers, faculty and education support professionals there,” Specht said. “They need to be in the room. They need to be heard. They need to be making decisions. That is the ultimate form or respect.” 

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

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