Meet this year’s Albert Lea Teacher of the Year finalists

Published 5:00 pm Monday, April 4, 2022

Albert Lea Area Schools will name the 2021-22 Teacher of the Year at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday in the Albert Lea High School Commons area. Here are the finalists:


Audra Beussman, special education, Halverson Elementary School

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Beussman, who has a master’s in education as well as certificates in both other health disabilities and physical impairments, has been with the district for 25 years.

Audra Beussman


“I have had interests in coursework related to occupational therapy, physical therapy and speed pathology especially as it related to assistive technology,” Beussman said in an email. “My interests for learning more is based on the wonderful students I have learned with.”

Both Beussman and her husband are from New Ulm and have one daughter.

“We have always valued the importance of our families and enjoy spending time with them,” she said.

For her, travel currently means visiting family or going back to New Ulm.


Mary Bissen, music, high school and middle school

Bissen, who has been with the district nine years, received a Master of Science in education in teaching, learning and leadership from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2019.

Mary Bissen

Besides teaching, Bissen has directed seventh-grade show choirs and SASS (the all-female show choir at the high school) whenever her teaching assignments have allowed it. She has also taken groups into the community to sing for various events around the year. 

Besides music, Bissen is in her seventh year as assistant junior varsity softball coach and is in her fourth year as Southwest Student Council adviser.

From Austin, she enjoys camping, fishing, hiking, reading, singing/playing the piano and guitar, jigsaw puzzles and spending time with family and friends.

“I consider my personal and professional goals to be very intertwined,” she said. “I strive to be a good, kind, caring, funny person, both inside and outside of the classroom. I think it’s important that — to the highest degree possible — I am the same person in front of my students that I am in front of my family/friends.”


Burke Egner, STEM teacher and technology integration coach, district/middle school

Egner, who has been with the district five years, has a master’s in education and is currently completing a career and technical education certification program at St. Cloud State.

Burke Egner

Besides teaching, Egner is the Curriculum Team lead for the PE/Health/Elective Department at the middle school and serves as the district’s educational technology integrationist. He serves as the coach for both the middle and high school robotics teams, is the head coach for the middle school’s video game club and the lead sponsor for Southwest Active Youth, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, vaping and other drugs. He’s also involved in United Way of Caring and is on the Pay It Forward committee. 

Egner and his wife, Lynn, have two sons, Jackson and Griffin. He enjoys playing hockey, reading and tinkering with electronics in his spare time.

One truly embarrassing moment for Egner was the time he forgot to contact local law enforcement agencies and notifying them he was having a Civil War reenactment complete with a cannon that fired blanks.

“My world was turned upside-down when news helicopters, SWAT team and three law enforcement agencies showed up at our school football field for what was reported as “bombs going off.”


Jacqui Richter, math, high school

Richter, who is in her eighth year in the district and teaches math, has a Master of Science in curriculum and instruction.

Jacqui Richter

Richter has taught Goformative sessions during staff development days and leads ninth-grade meetings during professional development days. She also teaches Sunday school and confirmation classes.

Richter — who is from Albert Lea — and her husband have two children. She enjoys camping and loves “Disney and can’t wait to get back there with my littles who have never been.”


LaChelle Sandon, special education, Lakeview Elementary School

Sandon, who has been with the district 21 years, has a master’s from Southwest State University. She has also served as a mentor, lifeguarded for functional skills at the high school and has been on the crisis team at each school building, among other things. She has also helped families in need of clothes, food, money, transportation, child care, cleaning, home repair and fire clean up. And she taught a student to swim.

Lachelle Sandon

In her free time she enjoys biking, kayaking, swimming, fishing, playing games, telling jokes, spending time with family/friends and making crafts with her daughter, Bailey. She also has a fiancee, Robert Decker.

Her most memorable moments include having graduation parties for students who no longer need her support, having sledding parties and participating in a Christmas meal with students.

But her dream is for everyone to realize they can make a difference in people’s lives by being kind, understanding and compassionate.

She also wants to celebrate the positive moments in families’ lives.