Two area teachers were recently named semifinalists for Minnesota Teacher of the Year.
Katie Brennan, a high school English teacher in the Pine River-Backus School District, and Charlie Johnson, an elementary music teacher from the Pillager School District, are two of 35 semifinalists for Minnesota Teacher of the Year. The recipient, chosen by a selection panel, will be announced at a banquet at The Northland Inn and Conference Center in Brooklyn Park on May 6.
"I'm pretty amazed," Johnson said of being named a semifinalist. "It's humbling and exciting. It's pretty cool."
"I felt really honored because I represent not only myself but all the other teachers on the staff," Brennan said. "For me, it's not just an honor for me, but an honor for them."
Johnson has spent 31 years as a teacher, all at Pillager schools. For 28 years, he was the high school band director, and three years ago switched to elementary classroom music.
"I was ready to try something different," Johnson said of the career move. "I'm finding sharing music is the same no matter what grade you're at."
Johnson is originally from Parkville, on the Iron Range, and attended Gustavus Adolphus College, receiving his music education degree in 1976. He started at Pillager High School in the fall of 1976.
Johnson's wife, Sue, is a music teacher at Lowell Elementary School in Brainerd. Their daughter, Heidi, attended the College of St. Scholastica and their son, Steven, is a senior at Brainerd High School.
Brennan, who has been an educator for the past 17 years, has taught high school English at Pine River-Backus Schools since 1995. She and her husband, Tom, have six children, ages 2-21, and live in Pequot Lakes. Brennan, a St. Paul native, received her English degree from the College of Saint Benedict and her master's degree in education from Southwest State University. She taught at Pequot Lakes High School for a year and also in Thief River Falls and Goodrich.
"For me, the thing I like best is when I can make a positive difference in the lives of my students, when I see somebody succeed," Brennan said. "When you've made it this far, no matter how far you've made it, you never feel like you're the teacher of the year. You're just an average teacher trying to meet the needs of kids."
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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