BAXTER -- After being involved with the Brainerd School District for more than 50 years as a student and a teacher, Karen Hines received one of the district's top honors.
Now a third-grade teacher at Baxter Elementary School, Hines was chosen Wednesday as the 2000 Brainerd Teacher of the Year and is the first teacher from Baxter Elementary School to receive the honor.
"I didn't realize until after the fact that I was the 2000 Teacher of the Year," she said. "That makes it extra special.
"I am proud to be able to say I made a difference. I am a teacher," Hines added. "Being a teacher is the next best thing to Mom."
Hines, along with nine other candidates, were interviewed for Teacher of the Year honors.
Hines was surprised when she found out she won. She thought a teacher who teaches a specific course, like a special education teacher or someone who is more in the spotlight like a band director, would win.
Hines grew up in Brainerd, attended Lowell Elementary School and graduated from high school here. She then began working for the Brainerd School District, which has been her employer for 30 years. She has taught nearly 1,000 students.
She began teaching fourth-graders and the enriched program at Riverside Elementary School and came to Baxter in 1984 to teach third grade. She has 26 students in her classroom this year. Hines spends a lot of her after school time working with 21 at-risk students on their academic and social skills twice a week.
In the classroom, she has a few prerequisites to successful learning. A child must feel physically safe and must feel secure enough to try new things with the possibility of making a mistake.
"I believe that student errors create a wonderful leaning opportunity and teaching moment," Hines said.
She also said each child should have the feeling he or she is valued and special. She gives every effort she can to ensure a child's positive self image.
Hines said after 30 years of teaching, she is never bored. She constantly tries to teach students new things and challenges herself to new opportunities.
"Teaching is a lifelong process," she said. "We must create opportunities for all students to succeed."
Hines said she saw the Teacher of the Year opportunity as a challenge and learning experience for her to grow, and that is why she decided to pursue the honor.
"It is a time for me to look back on my life and teaching career and to remind myself of the reasons why I decided to become a teacher," she said. "I had no idea at how much I have done over the years."
Hines attended Brainerd Junior College and Mankato, Bemidji and St. Cloud state universities. She lives in Baxter with her husband, Terry Hines, and has two children who work at Aho Appraisal in Brainerd.
Hope Brenny and Marian Pelto of Baxter nominated Hines for 2000 Teacher of the Year. Now Hines will have a chance to go to the next level, Minnesota Teacher of the Year. She must have a portfolio ready by June to compete.
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