Mary Sanders, a fourth grade teacher for the Montevideo Public Schools, has been named a semifinalist for the 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year honor.

Mary Sanders, a fourth grade teacher for the Montevideo Public Schools, has been named a semifinalist for the 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year honor.


Sanders has been teaching at the Montevideo School District for 13 years now, and aside from teaching her fourth grade class, she also teaches two sections of technology each day. She said that she and her colleagues foster an environment that is welcoming and fun for their students, where they can be eager to learn.


“I am privileged to work with a dynamic team of teachers who bring passion, professionalism and fun to their classrooms each and every day,” Sanders said. “My team (is) Kim Osman, Tim Epema, Dave Vik, Tes Ketelsen, Laura Herfurth and Kris Kirkeby. We may look like a hodge-podge group of a special education (teacher), a scientist, an outdoors activist, a tech nerd, and a couple of jocks, but somehow it all comes together, which is exactly how our classrooms are made up. Kids come from all kinds of backgrounds, interests and lets not forget personalities.”


Sanders said that she thinks the students pick up on the fun energy their teachers share, and it makes a good learning environment for them.


The decision to nominate Sanders for teacher of the year from the Montevideo School District was made by a local committee in the district. Staff were able to make nominations and voice their support.


“I thought the colleague I had voted for would get it. When (Superintendent) Dr. Heller and Amanda Blom came into a faculty meeting and made the announcement, I think my words were ‘this is crazy,’” Sanders said. “Receiving the Teacher of the Year award is truly an honor. Teachers do not do what they do for the recognition, but rather the thrill in experiencing the process of helping every child become the best that he or she can be.”


When her name was announced, Sanders said she knew what she had to do immediately.

“I asked if I could call my mom (Connie Cronen), and I did right away. She was thrilled.”

Sanders grew up on a farm near Benson. Her mother, who had taught at Benson, still held educational values, where were an influence on Sanders as she grew up.


“Education just sort of came natural to me. When I went to school (for education) I found out working with kids came natural, too,” Sanders said.


She received a degree in Elementary Education from St. Cloud State in 1999 — and her masters from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2012.


After receiving her bachelors, Sanders subbed in Willmar, and then in Montevideo, before joining the staff as a Title 1 teacher, working as a reading specialist, and then teaching third grade. She’s now been teaching fourth grade for four years.


Sanders said she likes teaching fourth graders. “Every day is an adventure. Sometimes the kids come in and have all sorts of stories, or things to say — and other days not so much. It’s different day to day, and then I start over again each year. I always say I have the best job because we get to start over fresh every year.”

See Sanders page 10A