Anoka-Hennepin has 160 new teachers this year

More than 160 teachers have joined Anoka-Hennepin School District 11 for 2012-13 school year.

Oxbow Creek Elementary Principal Rolf Carlsen spoke to Anoka-Hennepin's new teachers.
Oxbow Creek Elementary Principal Rolf Carlsen spoke to Anoka-Hennepin’s new teachers.

The first day of new teacher orientation, the room was set to seat 130 people.

With last minute hires and plans falling into place, more tables and chairs were ordered and about 160 new teachers came together for a three-day orientation.

A highlight of the new teacher orientation is to hear from an Anoka-Hennepin staff member about what their role is and how important it is to be a teacher in the school district.

This year’s speaker was Rolf Carlsen, the principal at Oxbow Creek Elementary School.

Carlsen started his presentation by asking the group to repeat after him, “It’s a great day to be alive.” After they did he promised he would explain to them later what that meant.

Carlsen did his student teaching at the former Sorteberg Elementary School in Coon Rapids and has been with Anoka-Hennepin since Oxbow Creek opened in 1987. It was an Apple demonstration school and to some was known as “Apple North.”

According to Carlsen, the school had Apple 2GS computers, a television and a phone in every classroom as well as e-mail.

“All you could do was e-mail someone in the building,” Carlsen said.

“We quickly thought, why not go and talk to that person? But it was prior to WWW (world wide web) and we still thought it was pretty cool.”

Entering college as a math major, Carlsen said he had no idea he was going to be a teacher.

After graduating with a math degree, a professor recommended Carlsen go to graduate school.

As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working as a teacher’s assistant in statistics, Carlsen had the opportunity to work with a variety of students.

“I taught engineers who only wanted to know what they needed to know for the test and then I had a room of social workers who hadn’t taken math for a long time and had to take statistics,” Carlsen said.

“They made me realize I loved this teaching thing. I had a good friend who was a fourth-grade teacher who asked me if I had thought about teaching elementary school.

“I said no and he encouraged me to do so because male teachers were needed for elementary schools. I got into student teaching and one thing led to another.”

To emphasize the impact teachers can have on their students’ lives, Carlsen showed a video of Dalton Ridge Sherman’s speech to 20,000 Dallas educators. Sherman was a fifth-grade student at Charles Rice Learning Center in Dallas in 2008 when he made the presentation.

“I believe in me. Do you believe in me?,” asked Sherman of the 20,000 teachers before him.

“Hey, Charles Rice Learning Center – do you believe in me? That’s right – they do? Because here’s the deal: I can do anything, be anything, create anything, dream anything, become anything – because you believe in me. And it rubs off on me.”

In his motivational speech, Sherman called out the educators to not only believe in him but to believe in his classmates, too.

He challenged the teachers to believe that every student can reach his or her highest potential and graduate from high school ready for college or the workplace.

“Because, as you know, in some cases, you’re all we’ve got,” Sherman said.

“You’re the ones who feed us, who wipe our tears, who hold our hands or hug us when we need it. You’re the ones who love us when sometimes it feels like no else does – and when we need it the most.”

Sherman also encouraged the teachers to believe in each other. He urged them to believe in, trust and to lean on their colleagues when times get tough. And he asked them to believe in themselves and to hang in there.

“There’s probably easier ways to make a living, but I want to tell you, on behalf of all of the students in Dallas, we need you,” Sherman said. “We need you now more than ever.

“We need you to know that what you are doing is the most important job in the city today. We need you to believe in us, in your colleagues, in yourselves and in our goals.”

Carlsen said it was easy to see why Dallas chose Sherman for their keynote speaker.

“We see so many kids where we are their last, best hope,” Carlsen said.

“We have kids who don’t want to go home for two weeks at Christmas or act up on a Friday because don’t like where they are going for the weekend.”

To end his speech, Carlsen circled back to his opening of “It’s a great day to be alive.”

Carlsen shared the story of how last summer, he was in a serious car accident. A woman driving beside him on I-35 fell asleep and drifted into Carlsen’s lane. Carlsen’s van hit the ditch and flipped.

Thanks to a number of amazing factors, Carlsen survived.

Most helpful was a first responder who had been in traffic behind Carlsen and a first responder who lived next to the accident, who came to help, as well as a bystander who did his part to get Carlsen out of his van before it burst into flames.

Peter Reineke, Jeremy Hastings and Brad Beebe received an award from the Minnesota Public Safety Award for their actions.

“I don’t think teachers get a chance to pull people from burning vans, but think of the Daltons out there,” Carlsen said.

“He said he needed someone to believe in him; we get a chance to do that every day.

“Helping kids is not going to be as dramatic as my accident, but it’s something we get to do on a consistent basis. What we do is as serious as what Peter, Jeremy or Brad did.”

As the new teachers head into their careers, Carlsen said he hopes they have a great start in District 11.

“I hope you find it to be the place for you; I did and stayed around for my career,” Carlsen said. “And I hope you have Daltons in your classroom and can be that person a student needs.”

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