Dockter was one of four finalists for the honor, which is presented each year. They were celebrated Monday at a ceremony in the state Capitol’s Memorial Hall. The other three finalists were Heather Ell, a first-grade teacher at John Hoeven Elementary School in Minot; Shari Jerde, a teacher of business education and family and consumer sciences at Grand Forks’ Community High School; and Matthew Nielson, a science teacher at Valley City Junior/Senior High School. All attended Monday’s celebration.
Dockter, 46, teaches social studies, science and mathematics at Hanson, and coaches Harvey High School’s football team. He has been an educator for 23 years, including 11 in his current position. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Minot State University and a master’s from North Dakota State University.
In accepting the award, Dockter praised his colleagues, his students, his wife and family, and the community of Harvey, which he described as an ideal place to teach and raise a family.
“The reason that I think we’re all here is our students,” Dockter said. “It is such a joy to see how, each year, the class comes together. This recognition is really not as much about me, as it is the kids in my classroom.”
“I think early on in my career, I thought I needed all the answers, and I had all the answers. It is clear now that I never did,” he said. “I learned much more from (his students) than they have learned from me … They have challenged me to not become stagnant, but rather give all that I have, because they deserve the best.”
Teaching “is the greatest and most rewarding career that you could choose,” Dockter said. “There are very few occupations where every day, you can influence the future, where every day you have a chance to create a legacy for yourself, your community, and most importantly, your students.”
Baesler attended celebrations for the finalists earlier this month at their respective schools, which she called “heartwarming and inspirational.” The educators, she said, “are not only outstanding teachers. They are respected and beloved by their students.”
“Mr. Dockter’s goal every day when he walks through the classroom door is to provide a safe environment where his students thrive academically and socially,” Baesler said. “He is willing to adapt and change his teaching methods to fit the moment, and make sure his students are learning as much as they can.
“He is a firm believer in project-based learning, and of giving students the power to control their own learning,” Baesler said. “He loves seeing students find and develop strengths that they didn’t know they had.”
Gov. Burgum praised Dockter’s “commitment to service to these kids, and his caring and passion.”
Dockter “understands that students learn better and are more successful when they see themselves as part of something larger, as members of a team or project team,” the governor said. “He encourages students to apply what they learn in the classroom in their lives outside of school, and he encourages relationship building in his community.”
Dockter will be North Dakota’s candidate for the national 2022 Teacher of the Year award, a program that is managed by the Council for Chief State School Officers, a Washington, D.C., organization that represents state education interests.
He succeeds 2021 North Dakota Teacher of the Year Kristi Reinke, a social studies teacher at Jim Hill Middle School in Minot. Reinke was a member of the selection committee that chose Dockter for the 2022 honor.
“His love, dedication and respect for his job not only shows up in his classroom and his building, but it helps to recruit and retain teachers to the profession,” Reinke said of Dockter. “A teacher’s influence goes on and on, and Bret, the students that you’ve helped, the athletes that you’ve coached, they’ll pass those lessons along forever.”
The process of naming the 2022 Teacher of the Year began last spring, when Baesler invited nominations for County Teachers of the Year. Forty North Dakota educators were subsequently honored as Teachers of the Year from their respective counties. The four finalists for the state Teacher of the Year award were picked from among that group, including Dockter, who was Wells County’s Teacher of the Year.
The state Teacher of the Year was chosen by an eight-member screening committee of education stakeholders, who reviewed their applications and interviewed the finalists. The process is outlined in North Dakota law, NDCC 15.1-02-21.
Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, an organization that represents teachers and public employees, said Dockter and his fellow Teacher of the Year finalists were “incredible teachers representing incredible colleagues, all across the state.” They embraced the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“The quality of the work you have done over the course of the past few years has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Archuleta said. “You went from full-time face-to-face instruction, to full-time distance learning instruction, and back again, more competently and professionally than any state in the nation.”
“That says something special about North Dakota, where teachers, school boards, administrators and state government work together in the interests of our children to develop and implement policies and protocols to keep our students safe and learning,” Archuleta said. “I cannot overstate just how important that is.”