Area educators honored

Sourcwell names various educators as Educators of Excellence

Lisa Steffen, Crosslake Community Charter School. Submitted Photo (May 2021)

Recognized as chain makers and links, educators from throughout the region connected and were celebrated April 28, 2021, as Educators of Excellence through Sourcewell.

During the online event, 43 teachers were honored, as well as two paraprofessionals, one leader, one coach, one educational team, two Silver Lining award recipients, and one support staff – representing 18 school districts, one education district, and one charter school in Sourcewell’s service area.

Motivational speaker Joe Beckman shared the event keynote and discussed the importance that chains and links play in lives of others, particularly students.

“Not everybody is made to be a chain maker,” Beckman said, “but maybe you’re a link. Every kid needs a chain made up of multiple links from multiple people from multiple facets of their lives – from family members to teachers to administrators to youth pastors.

Educators of Excellence from the area, including information from their nominations, were:


Scott Hetherington, Crosslake Community Charter School: Scott retired from teaching in the traditional classroom but wanted to stay connected with students and continue to learn himself. While he had a slight learning curve to change his mode of teaching to online instead of face to face on a regular basis, he has far surpassed the school’s expectations.

Lisa Steffen, Crosslake Community Charter School: Lisa has put her heart and soul into teaching kindergarten at Crosslake Community School for several years. Specifically this year, parents have appreciated how she has supported students and families by bridging the gap between in-person learning and engaging students during distance learning.

Belinda Reier, Pequot Lakes-Eagle View Elementary School: Belinda is a pioneer for her school and for distance learning, and a mentor and leader on the distance-learning team. She takes initiative to learn more about the resources implemented this year as well as how to use ones already inplace. She has continued to take her teaching in distance learning to new levels of expertise.

Lynn Smith, Pequot Lakes High School: No mask will ever hide Lynn’s smile or muffle her laugh, and the only infectious thing spreading in her class is joy. A veteran teacher with a long history of compassionate service to her students, Mrs. Smith proved the power of relationships in a digital learning world.

Elizabeth McKenna, Pequot Lakes Middle School: Beth is invested in the development of the whole child. This past school year she paved the way for Pequot Lakes Middle School to be awarded a grant opportunity to engage in the Botvin Life Skills curriculum. Aiming to improve the health and wellness of students, she will coordinate the inclusion of the content and see it through to a life-changing experience for her students.

Tom Demars, Pine River-Backus High School: Tom is a quiet leader in the high school. He’s notone to ask for or want attention for his valuable contributions. As a veteran teacher, he has modeled the, “growth mindset,” by embracing change required and making the best of any situation.

Shari Kamholz, Pine River-Backus Elementary School: Shari is always caring for others. She brings a positive attitude to her class every day. She remains flexible,patient, and understanding in her approach to reaching students and families. Despite challenges,Shari has managed to remain focused on what is best for kids to ensure their experiences at PRB are the best they can be.

Pequot Lakes Instructional Administrative Team, Ben Johnston, Aaron Nelson, Michael O'Neil, Melissa Hesch: This team drives continuous improvement efforts across all programs and grade levels in the Pequot Lakes School District based upon the Marzano High Reliability Schools™ framework.Focusing nearly all of their work on developing the capacity of teachers and staff to implement best practices, they also ensure those practices are implemented with fidelity through continuous monitoring protocols. They implement this work with a strong understanding of the art of leadership using the concepts and frameworks offered by GiANT Worldwide.Students in Pequot Lakes Public Schools have benefitted from an improved learning environment, improved instruction, and improved program alignment as the leadership work of this team has been implemented over the past three to five years.


Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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