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Pequot Lakes School District: Skaaland named Teacher of the Year

Pequot Lakes High School industrial technology teacher Dan Skaaland was named the district's Teacher of the Year on Wednesday, May 6. "It's overwhelming," Skaaland said. "I appreciate everyone that took time to write nominations for me, and that ...

Industrial tech teacher Dan Skaaland was named the Pequot Lakes Teacher of the Year on Wednesday, May 6.Photo by Dan Determan
Industrial tech teacher Dan Skaaland was named the Pequot Lakes Teacher of the Year on Wednesday, May 6. Photo by Dan Determan

Pequot Lakes High School industrial technology teacher Dan Skaaland was named the district's Teacher of the Year on Wednesday, May 6.

"It's overwhelming," Skaaland said. "I appreciate everyone that took time to write nominations for me, and that everyone thinks enough of me to carry that title. I'm very proud of that. It's a nice feeling."

The Detroit Lakes native is in his 13th year teaching at the high school and is teaching Introduction to Engineering, publications, woodshop and construction this year.

"What makes Dan so special is his willingness to try out anything that might benefit student learning," principal Chip Rankin said. "Dan is always one of the first guys to volunteer his time and talents. Dan definitely goes the extra mile to make sure kids have a great learning experience."

Skaaland became a teacher to make a difference in the lives of students and help guide them, but admits the award came rather unexpectedly.

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"I feel there are probably 20 other teachers that deserve it more than me," Skaaland said. "It really is an honor, but there are so many good ones here."

However, his fellow staff members disagreed. A summary of his nominations says, "Dan is a quiet but natural leader ... (he) approaches education with a sincerity that is infectious and his students know it. Many of his advisees say that he does a great job providing guidance to them in their effort to prepare for their futures. He goes above and beyond and is one of the best teachers we have had the pleasure of working with."

Skaaland admits he did not always want to become a teacher - initially pursuing a career in accounting - but he comes from a long line of educators. His great-grandmother was a teacher, as was his grandfather and both of his parents. After deciding he wanted a more hands-on career, he earned a master's degree in technology education and entered the family career field.

"When I first got my job here, some old guy picked up the phone and called me after seeing my name in the paper," Skaaland said. "He just called and said, 'Hey, your grandpa was my teacher.' My grandpa died when I was 4, but it was pretty cool to make a connection like that."

He has been married to his wife, Heidi, for nearly 16 years, and the couple has two daughters.

Though technically an industrial technology teacher, Skaaland's classes cover a wide variety of topics. His publications class is responsible for making the Pequot Lakes High School yearbook, while his construction classes allow students to build a home. This range of topics allows Skaaland to work with vastly different students.

"I get to teach so many different classes," he said. "It's fun interacting with different ones. In (Introduction to Engineering), it is more of a sit-down environment where we design and model things, and then out in the construction world we are building a house together. I get different groups of kids that keep me entertained and engaged."

Though it has not changed his perspective on the work he does, Skaaland admits the award is a nice reminder that he is in the right profession.

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"When you affect kids, they remember it, and that is kind of neat," Skaaland said. "I enjoy what I do, and I don't really want to do anything else."

Teacher of the Year nominations indicated that Skaaland is a "quiet but natural leader."Photo by Dan Determan
Teacher of the Year nominations indicated that Skaaland is a "quiet but natural leader." Photo by Dan Determan

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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