Wahpeton schools awarding top teacher, employee

Wahpeton Public Schools will honor its Teacher of the Year and its Classified Employee of the Year during a 1 p.m. ceremony Thursday, March 26. Nominations are now open for the two categories. Six candidates were up for the teacher award in 2019. From left, Melissa Snyder, Cassidy Ziesch, Kari McNary, Luann Zaun, Connie Pederson and Julie Carlson.

Nominating is now open for Wahpeton Public Schools’ annual employee honors.

Two awards will be given out at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 26. The district will honor its Teacher of the Year and its Classified Employee of the Year. Students, staff and the public are invited to a ceremony at Wahpeton High School, 1021 11th St. N. in Wahpeton.

“All employees can submit their nominations,” Superintendent Rick Jacobson said. “The voting is open for parents, students and community members, too.”

Unlike previous years, Wahpeton Public Schools will not accept any nomination form that is incomplete. The deadline to submit a nomination form is 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28.

Wahpeton Public Schools’ website, wahpeton.k12.nd.us, is one source for nomination forms. They can be printed off, completed and submitted as a hard copy or through email. Online voting and submitting is currently not available.

Nomination forms are also available at any Wahpeton Public School or the district’s office, located in Wahpeton High School. Any form which is not submitted or returned to schools or the district office must be sent to Wahpeton Public School District, Teacher of the Year or Classified Employee of the Year, PO Box 10, Wahpeton, N.D. 58074.

“This is our second year for the Classified Employee of the Year honor. A classified employee is anyone that’s an hourly employee,” Jacobson said.

Laurie Stone, an administrative assistant at Wahpeton Elementary, won the 2019 Classified Employee of the Year honor.

“Her calm demeanor and willingness to help all people that come through the door is remarkable,” Principal Jacob Dodge said.

Stone was part of a nomination pool including purchasing coordinator and kitchen site manager Joan Beyer; high school custodian Melodee Kuehn; bus driver Keith Peschel; paraprofessional Julie Prochaska Rempfer and paraprofessional Jeanne Schreiner.

The Classified Employee of the Year award was introduced in 2019. Like the Teacher of the Year winner, the top classified employee is recognized both in the public ceremony and as part of a hall of fame display in Wahpeton High School.

“It’s good to honor good people for good work,” Jacobson said.

The Teacher of the Year award, given out earlier in Wahpeton Public Schools’ history, was revived in 2014. That year, the honor went to music teacher Dean Aamodt.

Recent recipients include Learning Center teacher Janet Neumann, 2015; high school English teacher Kristi Maher, 2016; second grade teacher Tarah Larson, 2017 and Title 1 math instructor Beth Higdem, 2018.

Luann Zaun, a sixth grade math teacher at Wahpeton Middle School, was named the 2019 Teacher of the Year.

“I’m more of a numbers person, so I don’t have a lot of words,” Zaun said.

Zaun was part of a nomination pool including elementary school counselor Julie Carlson; second grade teacher Kari McNary; sixth grade social studies teacher Connie Pederson; early childhood special education teacher Melissa Snyder and agriculture education instructor Cassidy Ziesch.

“I’m so glad that it came up at a board meeting to resurrect the Teacher of the Year award,” Jacobson said. “It’s been a good thing for this district. It’s good that we got this started up again and expanded it.”

Wahpeton Public Schools’ awards are meant to recognize any employee for hard work, being a team player and overall excellence. The winning teacher is eligible to represent the district in the North Dakota Teacher of the Year competition.

The local awards ceremony is a community-wide event. As many as 1,600 people, including students from Wahpeton Public Schools’ four buildings, are expected to attend. Wahpeton Elementary, Wahpeton Middle School and Wahpeton High School are joined by Zimmerman Elementary.

“It’s a high-energy, exciting celebration,” Jacobson said. “Nobody knows who’s going to win until the announcement is made that day.”

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