This past spring, when former Coon Rapids High School student Jeff Shogren entered Dell Outlet’s teacher appreciation contest, he had just one teacher in mind: Karen Flaherty, the school’s work experience coordinator.
“She’s helped me so much,” he said. “She’s my favorite teacher.”
With help from his mother, Shogren, who is now enrolled in Anoka-Hennepin’s Bridges program, submitted an essay for the contest describing Flaherty and all the help she’s given him over the years, no matter his struggles.
The prize if his essay won: two Dell XPS tablets (similar to iPads) — one for him and one for Flaherty.
“I have a learning disability (and) I take longer to learn, but Mrs. Flaherty is always patient with me and the other students in her classes,” Shogren wrote in the essay.
“I will be going to a transition program this fall and I will miss Mrs. Flaherty because … she (taught) me a lot and she is a nice person.”
In August, Shogren learned he had won the contest and last week he received the two tablets, but rather than tell Flaherty right away, he and his family planned a surprise for her, and the staff at Coon Rapids High School was happy to help.
“It’s just such a great story,” Principal Annette Ziegler said.
Sept. 16, the surprise was sprung and Flaherty entered a conference room greeted by Shogren, his father and a number of school administrators and colleagues. She had no idea he had even entered the contest.
As Shogren told her about the contest and read the essay he had written, Flaherty grew emotional.
“You’re going to make me cry. It’s been an honor having you as a student,” she told Shogren.
Flaherty is the best teacher he’s ever had, even crediting her with getting him his first job, Shogren said.
But Flaherty is quick to suggest otherwise. “You got that job, not me. You did that,” she reminds him.
Flaherty said she isn’t sure what she’ll do with her new tablet.
“This was such a surprise, I don’t know what I’ll do. What an honor,” she said.