The daughter of an elementary school teacher and a pastor, Emily Anderson believes she was born to be a teacher — even if she tried to fight it.
Anderson, who graduated from Fridley High School, said she changed her major five times as an undergraduate student at Bethel University.
“Every time I tried something different it just didn’t feel right,” she said. “Now, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I guess it’s just what I was meant to do.”
Now in her 11th year as an economics teacher at Blaine High School, Anderson is getting recognized for her abilities in the classroom. She recently received the Economic Educator Excellence Award from the Minnesota Council on Economic Education.
Anderson said receiving the award was incredibly special. “When I took the position (at BHS), I had only taken one economics class in college,” she said. “And I don’t know how I came across it, but the Minnesota Council on Economic Education was holding a workshop for teachers who were also being thrown into teaching econ. That course saved me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
This isn’t Anderson’s first teaching award. She also took home one of the district’s Top Teacher Awards after finishing her first full-time year, and she was a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year last year.
“It’s great being recognized by your colleagues who are there in the trenches with you every day,” she said. “And it’s also great to work in a building where I am supported. I work closely with Steve Drewlo, and we’ve developed a lot of things together.”
But while all the accolades are wonderful, Anderson said the most rewarding part of her job is being able to connect with students.
“To be able to be part of their lives and impact their lives is the most rewarding,” she said. “I love that the subject matter is something that we can make connections to in their lives and show them the relevance — like opportunity cost. I spend a lot of time trying to get them to see the significance of (economic concepts).”
BHS Principal John Phelps nominated Anderson for last year’s Minnesota Teacher of the Year, and he describes her as an “extraordinary educator” and a leader in public education.
“It did not take long after my arrival as (BHS) principal two years ago to discover that (Anderson) is an extraordinary educator who is constantly trying to improve herself as a teacher, moving her students to new levels of comprehension, giving them a thirst for learning and love for economics,” he wrote. “She does this with her enthusiasm, knowledge, willingness to search for better teaching techniques, and modeling of her passion for learning.”
Anderson’s classroom style is very different from what most will remember from high school or college (and was another thing Phelps noted in his nomination). She distributes all materials electronically through Google Classroom, meaning her classes are completely paperless. In addition, her college-level students don’t attend class to hear lectures. She uses a “flipped classroom” style where all her lectures are recorded and assigned as homework, and classroom time is dedicated to simulations, case studies, group practice and one-on-one help.
“(Switching to a flipped classroom) was a shot in the dark,” she said. “But performance has definitely increased since.”
And that increased performance has come with some of Anderson’s former students pursuing studies or careers in the economics field. But, while her students adore her and the class, some still hate the subject. That’s okay with her.
“I know econ is not going to be everyone’s passion,” Anderson said. “But, we can’t all have the same passion otherwise the world would be boring.”
Anderson co-advises BHS’s National Honor Society and the Future Educators Club, and she also worked with another faculty member to start Bengal Bystanders, which aims to teach students to be active bystanders when they encounter an uncomfortable, bullying or even a dangerous situation.