An English and language arts teacher from Minneapolis has been named Minnesota's teacher of the year for 2009.
Amber Damm has been teaching seventh and eighth-graders at Clara Barton Open School since 2001. She was named the state's top educator at an awards luncheon in Brooklyn Park Sunday afternoon.
Education Minnesota, the state's teacher's union, has been honoring a teacher of the year for the last 45 years.
Steve DeLapp, principal at Barton, said he has long known of Damm's potential.
"She has a vision of reaching every kid, no matter what they bring -- whether they come into her classroom with strong skills as a learner, or whether they have lots of needs," DeLapp said. "She has an ability to find out what's important to them, and move them along on that journey of education."
Damm is an Illinois native who came to Minnesota to attend North Central University and the University of Minnesota.
She credited her family as her inspiration to pursue her career as an educator.
"My brother struggled to read when he was in third grade, and so we made a decision as a family to really devote ourselves to the process of, what is good education and how does it happen?" Damm said.
She said the inspiration overtook her initial plans, to be an architect. Damm said it also saw her through a difficult start to her career -- she was laid off after her first year of teaching in Minneapolis, at Patrick Henry High School. She has been at Barton ever since.
Parents there, Karen and Darryl Savage, nominated her for the award. Karen Savage said she appreciated how quickly Damm understood the needs and gifts of her two children, just weeks into the school year.
"It's like she just knew," Savage said.
Damm will spend the next year as an ambassador for Education Minnesota and the state's 70,000 public school educators. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband Jeff, and has a stepdaughter in her 4th grade class this year.
She succeeds Derek Olson, a sixth grade teacher from Stillwater who was given the award last year.
This year there were 101 candidates for Teacher of the Year. The candidates are nominated by students, parents, colleagues and community members. The pool was winnowed to 11 finalists.