17 inducted as honorees on Albert Lea High School Wall of Inspiration

Published 7:54 am Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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After being forced to postpone last year’s ceremony due to COVID-19, Albert Lea’s Wall of Inspiration was back Monday night, inducting 17 more members. 

Started in 2003 by the Kuphal family as a lasting memory of their son, Josh, the Wall of Inspiration is an enshrinement of tiles along the walls of Albert Lea High School with each tile custom designed by the inductees. 

Inductees are encouraged to show off their personalities on their tiles as a way to help inspire the students and faculty who walk by it every day.

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This year’s members inducted onto the Wall of Inspiration included the following:


Mark Grossklaus

Mark Grossklaus, the Albert Lea High School principal, has been involved in education for 28 years. Some of his accomplishments include being an Eagle Scout and being named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Minnesota Small Coach of the Year. 

He said he is inspired by people who do not allow people or things to stop them from accomplishing their goals. 

“I have never met a person who is as positive as Mr. Grossklaus,” his nomination letter states. “He has made Albert Lea High School better because he cares.”


Cassie Martinez

Cassie Martinez, a student at Albert Lea High School, is involved in mock trial, National Honor Society and theatre. Her hobbies include painting, drawing, writing and studying neuroscience. 

She said she is inspired by her parents and their story and work ethic. 

“Cassie is one of the best young women I have had the chance to work with,” her nomination letter stated. “Her kind heart and positive personality are infectious. They don’t make people much better than Cassie. She is an inspiration to every person at Albert Lea High School.”


Zac Luther

Zac Luther, a teacher and coach at Albert Lea High School, has been at Albert Lea for five of his seven years of teaching. He said he is inspired by the people that have a much harder life than him, who still manage to put on a brave face each day. 

“When I first met Mr. Luther, I just knew he was going to be a big part of my life and I was right,” his nomination letter stated. “Without Mr. Luther I would have possibly given up a long time ago, but I didn’t because he inspired me to be outgoing and caring towards others.”


Travis Jensen

Travis Jensen, a 2020 graduate of Albert Lea, was involved in Key Club, National Honor Society, the cross country and track teams, fellowship of Christian athletes, science fair and LINK crew while at Albert Lea High School. 

Now at Bethel College, Jensen is involved in cross country and track, Snow Crew, Bible studies and the Turning Point USA Club. 

“Our daughter attended the Night to Shine dance held at First Lutheran Church and Travis was her date for the evening,” his nomination letter stated. “After a few minutes of observing Travis with my daughter, I knew she was in good hands for the rest of the evening. She laughed, she smiled, she danced, she had the night of her life that evening. He made her feel like Cinderella.”


Mary Klinghagen

Mary Klinghagen, a teacher for seven years, said she is inspired by her mom, her friends and all the people who told her that she could not achieve her goals. 

“Her ability to see the good in everyone is what I admire most about her,” her nomination letter stated. “She gives every new face a chance to be somebody, and thanks to her, she has helped me become the person that I am so proud of today.”


Linda Willaby

Linda Willaby has been a paraeducator for District 241 for 23 years. Wallaby said she is inspired by the generations before her, being raised in a family that worked hard, was gracious and were people of strong faith. 

“Linda knows the right balance of when to push a student, when to raise the bar for them and when to step in and help,” her nomination letter stated. “Linda makes it her priority to develop relationships with her students and help them with a wide range of things.”


Aung Win

Aung Win was a 2020 graduate of Albert Lea High School and was involved in soccer. 

“Aung Win is one of the most inspirational students and athletes I’ve gotten to teach,” his nomination letter stated. “Whenever I think of Aung, I am reminded of his positive attitude and encouraging smile. Aung has had to overcome a number of obstacles since moving to Albert Lea, but he has not let those obstacles hold him back.”


Rachel Doppelhammer

Rachel Doppelhammer is a student at Albert Lea High School and is involved in hockey, tennis, band and choir.

“I thought Rachel was perfect for the Wall of Inspiration because she is kind to everyone,” a portion of her nomination letter stated. “She only sees the good in everyone. For example, if someone is having a bad day, she will say hi to them and try to cheer them up.”


Polly Schiltz

Polly Schiltz was a teacher for 41 years, most recently at Southwest Middle School, where she taught up to her death in 2019. 

“In August of 2019, Polly sat behind me during the all staff meeting,” her nomination letter stated. “I turned around and said hello to her, and as usual she was smiling and excited to be back at it… In the short time I knew Polly she made an impact on me. She maintained a positive, determined and focused mindset and never let her diagnosis be an excuse to stop living life.”


Lantt Benavidez

Lantt Benavidez was a teacher and coach at Albert Lea High School for two years. 

“I want him to go on the wall because he was an inspiration to a lot of people last year,” his nomination letter said. “I will be happy that he is on the Wall of Inspiration.”


Aaron Farris

Aaron Farris is a senior this year at Albert Lea High School. Farris is involved in symphonic concert band, jazz band, student council, National Honor Society, and is a school board representative. Outside of school, he is involved in the Freeborn County Republican Party. 

“I am proud to have been a close friend of his and to witness all that he has done,” his nomination letter stated. “His kindness and compassion to myself and others has paid off. He has been a supportive friend throughout all of my choices in high school. He was one of the very few people to stick by me and understand what I was going through.”


Sarah Swearingen

Sarah Swearingen has been a teacher at Albert Lea High School for four years. She said she is inspired by friends, family and her students. 

“She is truly the best teacher I have ever had and she is inspiring me to be a better person every single day,” her nomination letter stated. “I want to have the patience that she has and honestly, I want to be like her when I am older: sweet, patient, warm-hearted, a sense of humor that makes you want to laugh so hard you start crying, always a positive and happy, overall an amazing person to others and myself.”


Joseph Yoon

Joseph Yoon is a student at Albert Lea High School and is involved in hockey, soccer, choir, orchestra, choral and Key Club. He said he is inspired by his parents, as they have helped become the person he is today. 

“I believe Joseph Yoon should be on the Wall of Inspiration because he is polite, kind, compassionate, determined, skilled, smart, caring and has a light to him that many people don’t have,” his nomination letter stated. “He inspires me to go out of my comfort zone and to put others before myself.”


Also inducted were school clubs and local businesses, including: 

The Albert Lea High School Well Being Club

Dave Syverson Auto Center


District 241


About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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