Who will be the 2010 Teacher of the Year?

Published 4:05 pm Saturday, April 3, 2010

District 241 will name its 2010 Teacher of the Year Wednesday in the commons area at Albert Lea High School. The ceremony begins at 4 p.m.

The event acknowledges all district Teacher of the Year finalists and will conclude with Teacher of the Year award from the Albert Lea Education Association.

This year’s finalists are: Audra Beussman, Lisa Deyak, James Glaser, Katie Lein, Mark Nechanicky, Kathy Niebuhr and Heidi Venem.

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Following is a little about each of the finalists.

Audra Beussman

Audra Beussman, who earned her master’s degree from the College of St. Catherine, works in special services. She has been with District 241 for 14 years. For the last two years, she and the staff at United Preschool have spent many hours in training regarding inclusion in a preschool setting as well as using technology to help all learners in a preschool setting.

Beussman is a member of the special education advisory council and is a board member at United Preschool. She has worked with United Preschool to write grants to benefit the education of all learners.

Beussman has many educators in her family. “Their values, plus a dear friend with special needs, inspired me to become a special education teacher,” she wrote.

She and her husband, who are both from New Ulm, have a 3-year-old daughter.

Lisa Deyak

Lisa Deyak, who teaches English at Albert Lea High School, has been with District 241 for 16 years. She earned her master’s degree in English education from the University of Minnesota.

Deyak is currently the head boys’ track and field coach. She has also coached volleyball, junior varsity volleyball and eighth- and ninth-grade volleyball. She has also served as an assistant coach in track and field, boys’ swimming and diving and cross country. She was a Josh Kuphal wall of Inspiration award winner in 2008.

Her community activities include the Albert Lea Public Library board. She is a past member of the St. Theodore parish council.

She and her husband, Greg, have a daughter, Julia, 11, and son, Joseph, 8. Her personal goal is to renovate her house.

Deyak’s professional goal is to find new ways to challenge and engage her students. “Each and every time students are all working, learning and focused, then, I know I’ve done my job well,” she wrote.

Jim Glaser

Jim Glaser, who teaches third grade at Hawthorne Elementary, has been with District 241 for six years. He has a master of arts in education from St. Mary’s University. He is currently working on his administration license.

His work includes mentoring a student teacher, serving on the district social studies committee, writing social studies curriculum and doing social studies standards work. Glaser developed the free parent class, “How Can I Help a Third-Grader,” which teaches parents skills and concepts that third-graders need to be successful in school and in life.

He’s coached eighth-grade boys’ basketball, seventh- and eighth-grade girls’ basketball, eighth-grade softball, seventh-grade football and volunteered one year as the varsity girls’ basketball helper.

Glaser has been a Teacher of the Year nominee three times and a finalist three times.

Glaser, who served in the Navy, was VFW commander in 2007-08. He also serves in the honor guard. He’s an active member of St. Theodore Catholic Church and serves as ShineFest coodinator there. He was a group leader for teens on a mission trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 2007. He is one of the leaders of Tiger Cub Pack 105 and is on a Relay for Life team.

Glaser and his wife, Janet, have two children, Makenzie, a fifth-grader, and Mattison, a third-grader. Both children attend Halverson Elementary.

“I would like to someday create a school that has a great family involvement atmosphere,” Glaser said. “I want to make a positive impact on every school/child I teach,” he wrote.

Kathie Lein

Kathie Lein, who teaches special education at Halverson Elementary, has been with District 241 for 17 years.

A graduate of Albert Lea High School, Lein has a bachelor’s degree in special education from Winona State University. She earned her master’s degree in education from Saint Mary’s University in Winona.

Within District 241, Lein has been involved with a number of different committees over the years. She has been a new teacher mentor and also has had many student teachers. She is part of the District 241 Citizenship Committee and the Halverson child study team. She also is part of the Halverson parent-teacher organization as the teacher representative.

She was a Teacher of the Year finalist in 2002. In October of 2007, she was honored for her dedication to teaching as part of “A Day Made Better” campaign.

She has been a Girl Scout leader and a volunteer for her children’s activities. She is currently a board member of the Story Lady Doll & Toy Museum.

Her family includes husband Ross, and three children, Mina, 17, Carol, 14, and Herbie, 11.

Lein enjoys spending her free time with her family and having bonfires at her parents’ farm just outside Glenville. “Family time is important to me and definitely a priority in my life,” she wrote.

Lein said working in her classroom is never routine or predictable. “I continue to be surprised daily by my students’ will and determination to succeed in even the most difficult of tasks. It’s absolutely amazing what some of my students have to deal with and overcome on a daily basis just to do things that many of us take for granted like sitting down and reading a book or figuring a math problem. I really feel connected with my students and work hard to show them I care about them.”

She has a sign hanging near her desk that reads, “In every difficult or troubled time, a student ought to be able to look around and see a teacher standing in his or her corner.”

“I try my best to be that person for each and every one of my students,” she wrote.

Mark Nechanicky

Mark Nechanicky, who teaches fourth grade at Lakeview Elementary, has been with District 241 for five years. A native of Albert Lea, he earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Gustavus Adolphus College and master’s degrees in science and engineering and elementary education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He also has completed most of the courses to receive an English Language Learners endorsement.

Last summer, Nechanicky transferred the fourth-grade math and reading curriculums to the electronic board format. He is a fourth-grade targeted services teacher; a member of the district math committee and smartboard users’ group; member of the Lakeview building leadership, positive behavior and technology committees; he’s worked on several curriculum writing and state standards assessment projects for both fourth and sixth grades. He’s been a science fair judge each year and a teacher for Camp Invention.

Nechanicky is president of the Albert Lea Civic Music Association, plays the bass trombone in the Albert Lea Community Band, is a member of the United Methodist choir and handbell choir and a member of B’nai Israel synagogue in Rochester.

Nechanicky and his wife, Taryn, have a 9-month-old daughter, Anais. His parents, Paul and Marilyn Nechanicky, live in Albert Lea.

His personal goal is to continue to try new things and to persevere at tasks that are difficult for him.

“Education has unlocked many doors to many different opportunities for me — and those opportunities have been hard earned,” Nechanicky wrote. “As a teacher, I enjoy helping students succeed in something surprising to them and I enjoy guiding students toward confident learning in those new areas. I teach with the hope that my students in this small town have a world of choices.”

Kathy Niebuhr

Kathy Niebuhr, the Lakeview Elementary media specialist, has been with District 241 for 24 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business education from the University of Minnesota. She earned her master’s degree in education technology and her K-12 library medical education specialist certification from Mankato State University.

Niebuhr has been a member of the district technology and media committee; secretary, negotiator and past treasurer for the Albert Lea Education Association; past curriculum team leader for technology; and past Office Education Association/Business Professionals of America adviser.

She was the winner of the Sallie Mae First Year Teacher award; has been nominated three times for the Teacher of the Year award; and was the recipient of an Education Minnesota Foundation grant.

Niebuhr is a religious education teacher at St. Theodore Catholic Church, is a member and secretary of the Albert Lea Girls’ Basketball Booster Association and member of the Albert Lea Youth Soccer Association, a member of the American Association of University Women and a member of Minnesota Educational Media Organization.

A native of St. Paul, she and her husband, Brad, have three daughters. Beth is a student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Chelseya is a student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Sarah is a seventh-grader at Southwest Middle School.

She said her professional goal is to instill that same pride and sense that hard work is rewarded in many different ways in the children they are entrusted with every day at school and beyond.

Heidi Venem

Heidi Venem, who teaches special education at Southwest Middle School, has been with District 241 for 13 years. She has a master of science degree in learning disabilities and emotional/behavioral disabilities.

She serves as a Professional Learning Community facilitator, serves on the special education leadership team and the Southwest Middle School building leadership team and is part of an after-school program for at-risk youths. She is on the Tiger Trot committee and is part of the 6 A’s math and English reading standards committee.

Venem was previously nominated for Teacher of the Year.

She’s active as the vice president of the Sibley Elementary parent committee and serves as a Sunday school teacher at Trinity Lutheran Church.

She and her husband, Chris, have two sets of twins, Jaiden and Josie, 6, and Jaxon and Jaeger, 4.

Her goal is to help students to build their own inner desire for a lifelong education and to continue learning and trying new things every day.