BLOOMINGTON (AP) -- The 2001 Teacher of the Year knew she wanted to be a teacher since age 4, when her first students were her collection of dolls.
Barb Stoflet, 39, said she has been learning how to do her job ever since. "No matter how long you're in teaching you have to keep searching," she said.
Stoflet, a first-and second-grade teacher at Gatewood Elementary School in Minnetonka in the Hopkins School District, was named 2001 Minnesota Teacher of the Year on Sunday at a luncheon in Bloomington.
The honor also proved a major achievement for the school. Stoflet was nominated by Rita Wigfield, a fifth-grade teacher at Gatewood who was Minnesota's Teacher of the Year in 1992.
Principal Donna Montgomery said the honorees bring humor to their classrooms and share a desire to make all students part of the conversation.
"The kids want to be near them and they'll remember them forever," Montgomery said Sunday. "I know. I've been there for nine years and they come back and tell me."
The award is given out by Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union.
After learning Saturday that Stoflet won the honor, Wigfield made certain her students would be part of the festivities. They flooded into the ballroom, carrying balloons, when her name was announced.
"I knew that they'd want to be here," Wigfield said.
Stoflet was among nine finalists for Teacher of the Year and was selected from an original nominee list of 125 teachers.
In an essay accompanying her application, Stoflet wrote of a struggling student named Ian whom she had taught in a former job at a St. Cloud parochial school 12 years ago.
Ian, then 8, walked into class on the first day of school and said, "Is this the class for the dummies?"
Having to think fast, Stoflet said, she told her students that they'd been sent to her not because of their abilities, but because of the way they learned -- by touching objects and observing their classmates.
"That's when I first realized that I had to make kids aware: 'It's not you, it's how you learn, that sets you apart,"' Stoflet said.
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