Who will be the 2012 Teacher of the Year?

Published 9:39 am Thursday, April 5, 2012

District 241 will name its 2012 Teacher of the Year Wednesday in the commons area at Albert Lea High School. The ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m.

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

This year’s finalists are Nichole Brownlee, Jo Ann Erickson, Wendy Greenfield, Kathie Lien and Kristen Seeger.

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Following is a little bit about each of the finalists.


Kathie Lein


Kathie Lein teaches special education at Halverson Elementary School and is in her 19th year with the district.

She received her master’s degree from Saint Mary’s University.

Lein has been involved in different committees in the district over the years and is currently a part of the citizenship committee and Halverson child study team.

She’s also a teacher representative with the Halverson parent-teacher organization.

She’s been a Girl Scout leader and volunteered with many activities that her children are involved in. She’s a board member for the Story Lady Doll and Toy Museum.

Lein is a graduate from Albert Lea Area Schools and said it is a wonderful feeling to be back in the district and nominated for Teacher of the Year. She’s been a nominee before, and was a finalist three other times before this year.

“I feel very fortunate to live in this community and have the opportunity to teach in the school district where I was taught and where my love for learning first began,” she wrote.

Lein first taught special education for the Alden- Conger school district and has been at Halverson for 19 years. She said she loves the staff and students she works with and likes the unique opportunity of working with and watching students grow throughout their seven years in the elementary school.

She said she’s continually surprised by her students and that it’s “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.”

Lein and her husband, Ross, live in Albert Lea and have three children: Mina, Carol and Herbie.


Wendy Greenfield

Wendy Greenfield has been a teacher at District 241 for 15 years. She’s a seventh-grade history teacher at Southwest Middle School.

Greenfield has a master’s degree in teaching and learning from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Other school activities include being a play director or technical director, Tiger Trot chairwoman, professional learning community facilitator and ATTPS building coordinator, among others.

Greenfield has been nominated for Teacher of the Year before and was a finalist in 2006. She’s also received KIMT’s Golden Apple Award previously.

At Mansfield Lutheran Church in Alden, Greenfield is a Sunday school teacher and vice president of its council.

Greenfield is originally from the Sioux Falls, S.D., area. She’s married to her husband, Dyon, and together they have two children, Ethan, 9, and Kate, 7.

In her spare time she enjoys reading, hiking, camping and traveling.

“A life-long goal of mine is to keep learning both personally and professionally,” she wrote.

Nichole Brownlee


Nichole Brownlee is in her ninth year at District 241. She taught eight years of kindergarten at Lakeview Elementary and now teaches first grade at Lakeview.

She’s in the final stages for applying to a master’s program and hopes to begin soon.

In the district she’s held many extra titles including ATTPS facilitator, Reading Corps coach and new staff mentor, among others. She’s been on various committees and also written curriculum for eight summers including assessments for reading and math and Smart Board lessons.

Brownlee is also a volunteer at Crossroads Church and has been a bell ringer for the Salvation Army.

She and her husband, Cody, were hometown sweethearts from Marshall and married in 2003. They have three children: Sophia, 7, Callie, 5, and Ethan, 2. They enjoy traveling, and with school, church and other activities, they enjoy weekends when nothing is scheduled.

Brownlee wrote that it’s hard to pick out one specific memorable moment, and instead said most days in the classroom there are inspirational stories of children learning more than they thought they could.

“The paperwork, the meetings and the lesson planning is work, but teaching, that is a gift, a joy, a blessing that I am so fortunate to have in my life,” she wrote.


Kristen Seeger


Kristen Seeger has been with District 241 for seven years. She’s a fourth-grade teacher at Sibley Elementary School.

Seeger holds her master’s degree in teaching and learning. She’s also a professional learning community facilitator, leadership team member at Sibley and Halverson Elementary School and a basketball coach, among other activities.

Seeger is married to her husband, Dirk, and together they have a daughter, Peyton. Her hobbies include reading, spending time with her family and being outdoors.

Seeger enjoys when students hate to put down a good book or when they finally have the “ah-ha” moment when learning a math problem.

She said she most enjoys building relationships with students. Another one of her joys is how funny fourth-graders can be.


Jo Ann Erickson 


Jo Ann Erickson has served District 241 for 19 years. She is a social studies teacher at Albert Lea High School.

Erickson holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Hamline University and is working on master’s studies classes in political science at American Public University.

Other duties she has include being a district ATTPS coordinator from 2010-11, high school ATTPS building coordinator from 2008-10, best practices instructor, inquiry curriculum team leader and high school staff development committee member.

She’s been a nominee before for the district’s Teacher of the Year award.

Erickson is from Granite Falls and has one son, Jacob, 17, and one daughter, Elizabeth, 11.

Her most memorable experience as a teacher was bringing 18 students to France for three weeks.

“It was a life-changing experience for all of us,” Erickson wrote.

She listed hobbies of reading, biking, attempting 5k runs and some knitting, along with typical motherly chores of laundry and dishes.