Baesler Honors 2019 ND Teacher of the Year Finalists

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BISMARCK, N.D., Sept. 14, 2018 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced that teachers Leslye Thiery, Kayla Delzer and Annette Hovey have been named as finalists for the 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year award.

Baesler on Friday is visiting the teachers’ three schools to take part in ceremonies to honor them. Delzer is a third-grade teacher at Mapleton Elementary, in rural Cass County; Hovey teaches music at New Rockford-Sheyenne High School in New Rockford; and Thiery teaches fifth grade at Discovery Elementary in Grand Forks.

"These educators are shining examples of the best our teaching profession has to offer, in North Dakota or anywhere else," Baesler said. "Our children, and all of us, are honored and blessed by their passion, their honesty, their humility, and their willingness to push their students to fulfill their potential."

There are four finalists for the 2019 award. Baesler plans to visit Minot on Wednesday to take part in a ceremony to honor the fourth finalist. Her name will be announced later.

Baesler and Gov. Doug Burgum will announce the winner of North Dakota’s 2019 Teacher of the Year before the end of the month. The event’s time and location have not been scheduled.

Here are summaries of the three finalists:

Leslye Thiery has taught fifth grade at Discovery since the school opened in 2015. During her career, she has taught at three other Grand Forks elementary schools – Viking, Wilder and Ben Franklin.

"I believe we teach the whole child. I believe public education should be about bringing the community and the world to our students, forcing them to be aware and to think, to consume and question, to find relevant problems, to be curious and innovate solutions," Thiery wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. "I believe learners should be empowered to lead, to work with others, to show empathy and compassion, and to be inspired to make a difference."

Kayla Delzer has taught at Mapleton Elementary since 2016, after teaching at schools in West Fargo and Thief River Falls, Minn. She maintains a popular blog,, and has more than 105,000 followers on her @topdogteaching Twitter account. She is a member of the governor’s Innovative Education Task Force.

"Our class mission statement that drives our learning each day is simple: ‘Everyone’s a teacher, everyone’s a learner,’" Delzer wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. "When I first started teaching over 10 years ago, I thought I needed to be fully prepared, be an expert on everything, and know all the answers. Now I know that everyone in this world can teach me something, especially 7- and 8-year-old children. It is a humbling epiphany. I do not need to master every app or tool before I hand it over to my students and allow them to question, explore, and solve."

Annette Hovey has taught music, including band, choir, jazz band, singing, and music appreciation, at New Rockford-Sheyenne High School since 2013. Her band and choir students have received 11 Outstanding Performance Awards at state solo and ensemble contests in the past five years. Hovey also directs two Dakota Spark Youth Theatre camps during the summer.

"As a music teacher, I often say I have the best job in the school. I get to create beauty every day with my students and watch their eyes light up when they finally master a difficult section of music, create a goose-bump moment together, finally understand how that rhythm works, have a solid audition, receive a high rating at a contest, or finally achieve a goal they have had for years," Hovey wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. "The true joy I see in the faces of each of my students while creating beautiful art is something I believe all students should experience."

Baesler said teachers from each of North Dakota’s counties and school districts were asked to apply for Teacher of the Year consideration.

Applications were evaluated and scored, and finalists were interviewed by a panel made up of representatives of teachers, administrators, school board members, nonpublic schools, the Department of Public Instruction, and the 2018 Teacher of the Year, Leah Juelke of Fargo South High School.

"One of my goals as superintendent has been to raise the profile of the Teacher of the Year and of the teachers who are selected as finalists," Baesler said. "We want to encourage people to get into the teaching profession, and one way to do this is to bring forward our excellent North Dakota teachers to talk about their profession, the joy of teaching young people, and why they believe that teaching is fulfilling work."