Two Spring Lake Park educators have been named the 2014 Teachers of the Year in the district.
Jan Burda, a fifth-grade teacher at Westwood Intermediate School, and Brooke Magid Hart, a counselor at the high school, are this year’s honorees.
The two were recognized at a reception sponsored by Spring Lake Park Teachers United May 8.
In January, all were invited to nominate teachers they see doing good work in Spring Lake Park.
From the many nominations, a selection committee had to choose one educator from the primary grade levels and one from the secondary grade levels to become Teachers of the Year.
Jan Burda: born to teach
The eldest of five children, Burda said she felt a calling to teach from childhood. She often looked after her younger siblings and more than a dozen younger cousins.
After attaining her degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, she returned to teach in her home district, Chokio-Alberta. After six years there, she moved to the Twin Cities and began substitute teaching in District 16. A full-time position followed at Woodcrest Elementary School, teaching second grade.
Burda is in her 29th year with the district and now teaches fifth-grade language arts, math and science at Westwood Intermediate School in Blaine.
“I love to see the ‘a-ha’ moments,” Burda said, describing her passion for teaching. “All of a sudden, the lightbulb clicks.”
Burda follows her students’ progress in middle school, high school and beyond. She talks of former students who have gone on to audition on Broadway, become doctors and lawyers and more.
The Bashiri family, the family of one of Burda’s current students, nominated her for Teacher of the Year at the elementary level.
Burda is humbled by the recognition, she said. “Our district has many teachers who are deserving of this award,” she said.
She truly believes in the work District 16 is doing, especially its efforts to bring innovation into the classroom, she said. She and her husband open enrolled all three of their children in Spring Lake Park, and their youngest will graduate from high school May 30.
“She is the type of teacher I would want for my own children,” Westwood Intermediate Principal Tom Larson said. “[She is] caring, has high expectations and engages kids in their learning.”
Brooke Magid Hart: pointing kids toward college
Unlike Burda, Magid Hart had no intention of teaching when she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Alfred University in New York.
After volunteering with the Peace Corps in Paraguay, Magid Hart started work as a consultant for an educational agency. Her work inspired her to get her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, becoming a licensed school counselor.
After working at Ashland High School in Ashland, Wisconsin, Magid Hart moved to the Twin Cities. She spent a year in the Minneapolis School District, then settled into her current role at Spring Lake Park, which she’s held for the last 14 years.
Each of Spring Lake Park High School’s four counselors works with a class from ninth grade until they graduate.
Magid Hart will say goodbye to her current class, 2014, when the students graduate Friday.
“I have a goal that all of my students will further their education beyond high school, and right now, I’m sitting at around 95 or 96 percent of the class,” she said. With approximately 325 students graduating, about 310 have enlisted in the military or enrolled in college. “I work hard at that,” Magid Hart said.
Her colleagues have noticed. Wendy Hatchner, a German teacher at the high school, nominated Magid Hart as the Teacher of the Year this year. Magid Hart nominates Hatchner annually.
“Brooke is truly deserving of this honor, and it speaks volumes that her colleagues have recognized her for that,” Spring Lake Park High School Principal Jane Stevenson said. “She is a student’s biggest champion who is there to celebrate when things are going well and also helps the student to pick up the pieces where things fall apart.”
This isn’t Magid Hart’s first recognition. In 2011, she was selected as the Minnesota Secondary Guidance Counselor of the Year by the Minnesota School Counselors Association.
Last year, Spring Lake Park Teachers of the Year were Amanda Saum, currently a fourth-grade teacher at Westwood Intermediate School, and Tricia Miller, a world cultures teacher at Westwood Middle School.
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