Breckenridge High School Business Education teacher Derek Grahn earned the Emerging Teacher of the Year award at the Minnesota Marketing – Business – Information Technology Educators Fall Conference held Friday, Oct. 8 in Arden Hills, Minnesota.
The conference welcomed educators in the above fields to join professional development workshops and breakout sessions during the annual conference, and recognized several deserving teachers during the Professional Awards Session.
Grahn said he discovered he had won the award prior to the conference, though he doesn’t know who nominated him.
“It’s nice to be recognized for a lot of the stuff we’re able to do, especially for an outstate school … I think it says a lot about what the school and the community has done to support the business department here,” Grahn said. “I don’t think a lot of the stuff we do is possible without their support.”
Grahn said he is in his sixth year of teaching at Breckenridge High School. Before Grahn, the school had been without a business teacher for roughly four years.
He pulled the program out of its hiatus by introducing business technology courses, starting a DECA chapter, reopening the school store and networking with area businesses.
Even in his first few years of teaching, Grahn has made a lasting impact on his students. Some of his proudest moments as an educator are when former students tell him the discussions and lessons they learned in Grahn’s class prepared them for their futures. One year, 17 high school seniors signed up for a retirement account before graduation.
“They might not always realize the importance of the stuff we’re talking about today, but when they’re able to reflect on it and see their growth, that’s something that’s pretty special,” he said.
Not only does he help his students prepare for the woes of adulthood, he makes it fun. Grahn maintains an active classroom, based in the real world. Currently, in Grahn’s marketing class, the students are organizing a video game tournament.
Breckenridge Public Schools Superintendent Brad Strand said the award is well-deserved for a teacher like Grahn who keeps quality learning as his top priority and challenges his students.
“Derek is a teacher that continues to go above and beyond for his students,” Strand said. “He promotes a growth mindset for all students in career and technical education.”
As for the future, Grahn has no plans of slowing down his improvements and innovations to the department. He wants to continue building up the partnerships between his students and local businesses.
Grahn is in the process of developing a sponsorship program. Students would be able to work with an industry they’re interested in pursuing post high school, attending work conferences and field trips, and getting to know what the career looks like in the real world. He is also interested in setting up a career fair in the spring, depending on the status of the pandemic.
“I put in a lot of time and effort to make sure that my students are prepared for success. We’ve had a great opportunity to have support throughout the community for kids to be able to work on things,” Grahn said. “In general, I’m just passionate about education. I love working with the kids everyday, and I think that shows as far as what the kids get out of it, too.”