Students call him Mr. B. And they simply can't wait for his class each day.

"Everyone wants to be in Mr. B's class," Kari Norton said of fellow Eagle View Elementary School third-grade teacher Sean Bengtson. "He makes learning fun and engaging."

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That's one reason Bengtson was recognized as this year's Pequot Lakes Teacher of the Year.

Another reason is his effectiveness as a teacher.

"He holds his students to very high expectations, and his classroom is very rigorous, and yet he still makes learning fun," Norton said.

Bengtson is in his 20th year as a teacher and 18th in the Pequot Lakes School District. But his passion for teaching started long before.

"My dad was a teacher, and so I got to see the work that he did," Bengtson said. "I volunteered in his room a fair amount of time. It looked like work, but it looked like fun. So I gave it a try."

That "try" turned into a two-decade career that began at the former Emily Charter School, where Bengtson taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades for two years after getting his bachelor's degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and master's from his hometown St. Cloud State University.

"I had job offers in Emily and then in the Twin Cities," he said. "And I chose to live up here."

After teaching in Emily, he transitioned to special education teacher in Pequot Lakes. Six years later, he moved to his current post as a third-grade teacher at Eagle View Elementary School in Breezy Point. And he doesn't have plans to leave any time soon.

"The third-grade teachers I work with are excellent. We have a great staff at Eagle View, and I get the chance to meet so many nice kids and parents and families," Bengtson said. "It's really a nice place to live and work."

Another one of those third-grade teachers is Cheryl Rohrbach, who said Bengtson welcomed her with open arms when she came to Eagle View two years ago after teaching in another district for 23 years.

"He goes out of his way to make everybody feel wonderful. He's an outstanding guy. He accepted me on his team," Rohrbach said. "He just makes you love your job, and he's always positive. He just has great teaching skills, and he's like a father figure to these kids."

Norton echoed those sentiments.

"Sean is by far the most easy-going, laid-back, collaborative team player who is always willing to put in the effort," she said. "He's positive even on days when it gets trying."

Some of that positivity comes from Bengtson's students.

"I work with 23 other happy people. Kids are generally pretty excited about school. They don't always say so, but generally they're pretty happy," he said. "They've got a lot of enthusiasm; they like to learn."

Perhaps the best part of the job for Mr. B is the fact that he's making a difference.

"I think I'm doing things that matter," he said.

Other candidates nominated for the Teacher of the Year honor were Mindi Brill, first-grade teacher; Sara Crabb-Erickson, high school special education teacher; Belinda Reier, second-grade teacher; and Jamie Wagner, high school Spanish teacher.