First early educator nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

by Tom Bedard - early childhood educator

I thought I would let you know that I was one of 11 finalists for Teacher of the Year in Minnesota through Education Minnesota.

I was very surprised when I was nominated because I thought it was only for teachers in the k-12 system. The nomination came from a parent in our ECFE program who was a teacher in the St. Paul School system and knew about the program.

By accepting the nomination I subjected myself to creating a portfolio. The portfolio included two, two-page essays: My Philosophy of Education and Important Issues Facing Education Today. I also had to do a resume, get five letters of recommendations and document my work on an additional four pages. They actually called it our "book."

So I did have to do most of the work. They made an initial cut in Februray down to 27 semifinalists. In March, they picked the 11 finalists. One thing to note is that this was the Teacher of the Year for Minnesota and I was the first pre-k candidate to reach the finals in Minnesota.

There is a Teacher of the Year chosen each year from every state, but I do not know if a pre-k teacher has ever been chosen from another state or reach the finals of another state.

There is a conference in Dallas each year for the Teachers of the Year from every state. At that event, they choose a Teacher of the Year for the U.S. In April, there is a Rose Garden ceremony for all the Teachers of the Year.

It was a bigger deal than I thought and it was amazing for all the finalists to be a part of the Minnesota portion of it. We all felt like we belong to a noble profession that is touching and changing the lives of children.

I spent the first weekend in May with the other finalists at a hotel in Brooklyn Park. The teachers were from around the state and represented kindergarten through high school and special education plus me as an early childhood educator. We had a meet-and-greet on Friday night. Saturday we all hung out together and each had a half-hour interview with 22 panelists. We also had a luncheon with the panelists in the middle of the day. On Sunday, they put on a banquet.

At the end, they named the Teacher of the Year for Minnesota. I was not it, but I can truly say the weekend was the most affirming and validating of my 30 years in early childhood education.

After they named a middle school teacher from Minneapolis as Teacher of the Year, they acknowledged that I was the first pre-k teacher to reach the finalist stage.

I loved my job before and have been re-energized --- if that is possible.

One interesting note about the finalists. Three of the four highschool teachers were women and there were four men, including myself who taught grades three and below. Not very representational of the field.

You can read Tom's Story here.

Read Tom's Blog here.

Tom Bedard
Early Childhood Educator