Doreen Felts named Bemidji’s Teacher of the Year – Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Though she recently retired from her role as a kindergarten teacher after 30 years, Doreen Felts will still have a presence in the Bemidji Area School District after being named Teacher of the Year during the Bemidji Education Association’s annual all-faculty meeting on Wednesday at Bemidji High School.

“It is so exciting to be here that I feel like I should be doing cart wheels across the stage. But the more logical part of my brain tells me, ‘not with this body,’” Felts said during her award speech, which was met with a round of laughter.

Leaving her role at Lincoln Elementary, Felts noted her excitement as well as the bittersweet nature of not preparing her usual lessons for the 2022-2023 school year.

“Teaching kindergarten is my passion and I will miss it, although I know the time is right for me to begin a new chapter in my life,” Felts added. “It is an honor to be standing here amongst a room full of talented, dedicated and amazing professionals: my colleagues.”

Kate Pearson of the Bemidji Education Association presented each award of the morning and noted several characteristics that earned Felts the award.

“Sometimes, a teacher may stand out from the crowd. They might not recognize it themselves, but those around them see it and know it,” Pearson said. “One of our own stands out in the crowd.”

Kate Pearson of the Bemidji Education Association announces award winners on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Pearson detailed Felts’ professionalism, honesty, work ethic, cheerfulness and sincerity as her colleagues described her.

“Her greatest gift of all is making everyone she comes in contact with feel special,” Pearson added. “Over the years, former students have reached out to her as a teacher they remember well. They tell her what a positive role model she was, and many have gone on to become educators themselves.”

She pointed out the struggles faced by many school districts across the country regarding teaching positions not being filled and a decline in the number of students seeking teaching degrees.

“(The district) has not been immune to this trend,” Pearson said about the roughly 40 teaching positions that were open for this school year. “Now more than ever, we need good teachers in every classroom connecting with students, engaging them in the learning process and helping them become their personal best.”

Felts expanded on Pearson’s sentiments, stating, “Peppermint Patty once asked Charlie Brown, ‘I wonder what teachers make?’ Charlie Brown responded by saying, ‘A difference, Peppermint Patty. They make a difference.’”

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Doreen Felts goes to hug Kate Pearson of the Bemidji Education Association after Felts was named Teacher of the Year on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Steve Brown, a paraprofessional at Gene Dillon Elementary, received an award for Support Professional of the Year.

“(Brown) is kind, humble, a self-starter, a team player and an all-around great guy. He has a persevering spirit and a calm demeanor that allows him to remain unflappable in chaotic situations,” Pearson said.

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Steve Brown receives the Support Professional of the Year award during the Bemidji Education Association awards on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“I’m deeply humbled and honored to accept this award, and the schools I’ve worked at, I consider my families,” Brown said in his acceptance speech. “I thank everybody I worked with in the past, present and future.”

A third award for Lay Educator of the Year is typically awarded to an individual not employed by the district but who supports public education. Pearson said the BEA received no nominations for this award, citing difficulties with the coronavirus pandemic and recruiting volunteers to visit the various school buildings.

District Human Resources Director Jordan Hickman also recognized employees who have served the district for 15, 20, 25 and 30 years respectively.

Employees serving 15 years include: Audra Allen, Kristi Anderson, Anna Grand, Jeffrey Julson, Nicole Kieson, Tyler Kondos, Nina Lubarski, Nancy Lundt, DeAnna Nyegaard, Jeremy Olson, Matthew Peabody, Kelli Peterson, David Sauer, Liana Schaefer, Amy Sheffield. , Amanda Stade, Theresa Wheeler, Jennifer Wille and Lori Yerbich.

20-year employees are Kristi Bodenheimer, Michael Buckanaga, Amy Edens, Denise Hanson and Gabriel Nordby.

25-year employees include Paul Daman, Kristina Vanwilgen-Hammitt, Ami Aalgaard, Tracy Bittmann, Steve Peterson and Paul Rafferty.

30-year employees are Denise Black, Beckie Campbell, Edward Carter, Julie Maus, Kristen McRae and Patrick Stout.

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Employees who have served 30 years or more are recognized during the Bemidji Education Association awards on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

With the beginning of the school year approaching on Tuesday, Sept. 6, Superintendent Jeremy Olson concluded the awards portion of the morning with a certain proverb leading into his first year with the district.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Olson said. “We have to have that vision of where we’re going and we have to do it together. I don’t want to go fast. I want to go further.”

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Superintendent Jeremy Olson addresses attendees during the Bemidji Education Association awards on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

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