MINOT, N.D., Sept. 19, 2018 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced Wednesday that Sara Medalen, a reading and math teacher at Minot’s Sunnyside Elementary School, is a finalist for the 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year award.
Baesler on Wednesday visited Sunnyside to take part in a ceremony to honor Medalen, who is a Title 1 reading and math interventionist in grades K-5 at Sunnyside. Medalen teaches students who need extra help in math and reading. Last month, Medalen was named as the Minot Education Association’s teacher of the year.
Medalen is known for her "Books and Braids" initiative, which she began last year as a novel way to encourage youngsters to read. She braids young girls’ hair before school while they read to her. Since beginning Books and Braids last year, she has also begun braiding the hair of young boy readers, which is called "Dudes and ‘Dos."
There are four finalists for the 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year. Last week, Baesler visited the schools of the other three finalists to celebrate their achievement. They are Leslye Thiery, a fifth-grade teacher at Discovery Elementary in Grand Forks; Kayla Delzer, who teaches third grade at Mapleton Elementary, in rural Cass County; and Annette Hovey, the music director at New Rockford-Sheyenne High School in New Rockford.
Baesler and Gov. Doug Burgum will announce the winner of North Dakota’s 2019 Teacher of the Year next week. The event’s precise time and location have not been scheduled.
In her Teacher of the Year application, Medalen wrote that her goal as a teacher "is to not only develop student literacy and numeracy skills, but to develop the student as a whole, by empowering them to reach their dreams … Students must feel loved, respected and understood. The interwoven threat in everything … is love."
By law, Teacher of the Year candidates are interviewed by a panel that represents public and nonpublic schools, teachers, superintendents, career and technical educators, school board members, and the Department of Public Instruction. The group also includes the 2018 Teacher of the Year honoree -- Leah Juelke, an English Language teacher at Fargo South High School.
"We are grateful that these dedicated professionals give of their time and talent to help this worthwhile program," Baesler said.
"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 continued. "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."