An English teacher at an alternative high school in Shakopee is the 2018 Minnesota Teacher of the Year.
Kelly Holstine, who has taught at Tokata Learning Center since 2012, received the honor Sunday afternoon at a celebration in Bloomington. She's the 54th recipient of the award, and the first from the Shakopee district.
Holstine was among 12 finalists selected from among the 86,000 members of the teachers' union Education Minnesota. Moments after she learned of her big win, she told MPR News she'll use it as fuel to keep teaching at-risk students with empathy and compassion.
"If you can be really patient and find out their story and find out how you can help and support them, then it's amazing — the transformation is amazing — and to get to be a part of that and bear witness to that is the biggest privilege of my life," she said.
In a nomination letter, a parent of two of Holstine's students noted her willingness to adapt her teaching style to meet the needs of kids who have struggled in traditional schools.
"Many of Tokata's students are facing struggles that make it difficult to thrive in a standard public school setting," Amy K. Mytnik wrote. "So it is important for the teachers to be able to adapt their teaching styles to meet a variety of learning setbacks and behavioral concerns. Kelly's willingness to meet her students where they are and use the most effective methods to foster an environment of safety and healing is most effective in this environment."
Holstine has been teaching in Minnesota since 2007. She holds a master's degree from Augsburg College.
The Teacher of the Year award recipient is chosen by an independent selection committee of leaders in education, business and government.