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Pequot Lakes Teacher of the Year nominees

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Allison Reigel, Michael Sommerness, Nikki Stark and Megan Zierden are nominees for the 2013 Pequot Lakes Teacher of the Year. The Teacher of the Year will be named at the end-of-the-year brunch Tuesday, May 28.

Allison Reigel

Reigel has been a first-grade teacher in the Pequot Lakes School District for 14 years. She also is the primary literacy coach, training and supporting teachers in their classrooms.

Reigel received her Associate in Arts degree from Rainy River Community College, Bachelor’s degree from Bemidji State University and Master’s degree from Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU). She has also completed coursework in Differentiated Instruction and Literacy Coordinator Training.

Reigel is married to Mike Reigel and together with their two daughters, Abigail and MacKenzie, they enjoy camping, hiking and canoeing. She is also an avid scrapbooker and reader.

Reigel’s philosophy of education is: “I believe all students are capable of learning and achieving growth. I strive to differentiate my instruction, challenging students at all levels. I believe that job as an educator is to provide various levels of support within my classroom. And the ultimate goal is providing an environment that nurtures the social, emotional and academic growth of my students.”

Michael Sommerness

Sommerness has been teaching both middle level and high school band at Pequot Lakes for nine years after graduating from St. Cloud State University with a degree in instrumental music education.

He recently earned his Master’s degree from SMSU.

His band experience has him working with many different ensemble and community groups, including Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts music, Band in the Park and others.

His marching bands have been the highlight of many community parades. Last year his concert band took a whirlwind tour of New Orleans, Memphis and Chicago. He has been recognized for his contribution to education by receiving superior ratings at band contests and coaching all-state band students.

Beyond school, Sommerness loves to spend time with his family — Jenny, his wife, and children, Alison and River — yearly canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, biking and fishing.

His philosophy of education is: “The process of finding one’s self and being a part of something greater, a community and the world, becomes apparent and important to individuals as they become educated. When students are encouraged to ask themselves ‘Who am I?’ they begin to understand the very human need to express themselves, to create, and to find an effective process to do so. I strongly believe that music is an essential element of the human experience and for students it acts as a medium for the assimilation of applied knowledge and an individual, personal expression.”

Nikki Stark

Stark is an 18-year veteran of Pequot Lakes High School, where she has taught all the high school level math classes, as well as a year of chemistry. She has been the Interact Club adviser for the past nine years.

Stark demonstrates the Rotary service club’s goodwill by personally volunteering for the Nisswa PTO, HART, Kids Against Hunger, Lakes Area Food Shelf and as a Sunday school teacher.

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in secondary math education from Bemidji State University and Master of Arts degree in educational leadership from Southwest State University.

She is currently working on a Master of Arts degree in educational technology from Concordia, St. Paul.

Stark and her husband, Brian, live in Nisswa with their two sons, Jacob and Joshua. She enjoys bicycling, golfing and running, proudly completing her first half-marathon last August.

Stark’s philosophy of education states: “My philosophy of education is that every student can and will learn, most definitely not all in the same way. It is my job to make sure that when they leave school they can be productive members of society. In order for this to happen, it is not just the math that I teach. Responsibility, self-discipline, organization, and now digital citizenship are among the many topics I am responsible to teach in class. In order for students to learn all the things I want to teach them, they have to want to learn from me. I try to build relationships with students by getting to know them. I accomplish this by letting them know that I care about them, will listen to them, empathize with them, help them if I can, and do all this while holding them accountable for their actions. It can be a tricky balance, but definitely worthwhile. I cannot imagine doing anything but teaching for a career.”

Megan Zierden

Zierden has been teaching for 10 years, spending seven of those years in kindergarten and first grade in Pequot Lakes. Zierden received her Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and her Master’s degree from Southwest Minnesota State University.

She was instrumental in starting the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) initiative at Eagle View Elementary School. She also serves on the Early Childhood Coalition.

Zierden lives in Breezy Point with her husband, Joe, and daughter, Tatum. She enjoys boating, scrapbooking, skiing and is a novice gardener.

Zierden’s philosophy of education reads: “Every child matters ... they each have a special and unique gift to share in the world. It is my job as an educator, along with my colleagues, to help, support and believe in students to meet their fullest potential.”

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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