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Keith Jacobus Viewpoint: Get to know some of our all-star staff

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Keith Jacobus Viewpoint: Get to know some of our all-star staff
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Last month, the community had the opportunity to hear a few of the many student success stories that are being acknowledged across the district. Our staff also has many reasons to be proud this time of the year. The stories of special staff come alive at our annual employee celebration in May.


With hundreds in attendance, the event is the opportunity to recognize those retiring from the district, those with milestone years of service, and also our Education All Stars. While names and more details about the event will be included in other communications, I am pleased to feature the All Stars, nominated and selected by their peers for igniting a passion for students through their work.

Logan Carstensen, Lake Middle School science teacher, works tirelessly to increase student, parent and staff involvement and engagement. He instituted a "Topics for the Dinner Table" section in his parent newsletter that gives talking points for parents to get "school learning conversations" started at home. It's a great idea that has been used by other teachers and has received positive feedback from parents.

Park High School social studies teacher Yonnie Eiden-Giel is seen as a creative, compassionate and self-motivated teacher. Her name can be found as part of several initiatives at Park, among them International Baccalaureate, Link Crew, soccer and lacrosse announcer, prom and other dances. The fact that many of her students call her "mom" describes the relationships and personal impact on the lives of students.

Lake Middle School business teacher Cathy Ehrlich provides positive leadership to a variety of classroom teachers. She has worked tirelessly to ensure success for a new course on college and career readiness this year, and brings in guest speakers who support the increasingly diverse student population, and inspire students to improve and find success in learning.

Molly Feigal, Middleton Elementary's music specialist, is known for her passion to utilize students' strengths. She has grown the largest elementary choir in the district, now with 101 students. Feigal places a high value on connecting with families, which was evident this year through her efforts to ensure success for a student and his family from the Ukraine, and also by incorporating a "Dad Band" at a recent choir concert.

Tania Ferderer, physical education teacher at Newport Elementary, has a positive and encouraging attitude. She has ensured that all students have tennis shoes, hosts family fun nights for fitness, and volunteers to run with students in the Twin Cities in Motion 5K. Ferderer works with other staff to support students who need movement as part of their instruction, and is depended on for her creativity throughout the entire school.

Bailey Elementary's office coordinator, Nancy Leinhard, generously gives her time and talents to prepare the building, welcome families, and keep Bailey running smoothly. Staff relies on her communications, impeccable record keeping, and knowledge of the district and its procedures. Leinhard is always willing to drop what she is doing to help students, parents, and staff with her unending patience.

Shannon N'Diaye, special education teacher at Grey Cloud Elementary, is described as an extremely compassionate and caring educator who exudes positivity in any situation. Each fall she presents an informative demonstration to help other students understand the challenges children with autism face.

Anne Wenisch, reading specialist at Liberty Ridge Elementary, is patient, caring and excellent at working with students, staff and parents. She facilitates many programs to promote literacy, including FLOAT (Family Literacy, Our Adventure Together), an event that encourages kindergarten families to take part in reading and literacy at home, and a summer reading program that motivates children to read throughout the summer.

Megan Zachman, second grade teacher at Middleton Elementary, has an unlimited amount of energy, enthusiasm and creativity. She uses students' natural curiosity to design inquiry-based lessons and delivers them through the lens of a child, connecting with individual abilities, strengths and interests. Zachman also leads a number of initiatives that impact those beyond her classroom, helping ensure student success throughout the school.

Again, this is just a few of those being recognized for their efforts on behalf of the thousands of students in our schools. These examples are evidence that our mission to "igniting a passion for lifelong learning" is alive and well, and making a difference for our students.