Andrea Roethke is MinnCAN’s interim executive director.

In May, we kicked off Teacher Appreciation Month by launching our new Teacher Advocacy Toolkit to help educators elevate their experiences from the classroom to the Capitol. Last Friday, Educators 4 Excellence capped off the month by recognizing five passionate Minnesota teachers demonstrating exactly what it looks like to be a teacher leading in advocacy and organizing.

I was honored to attend E4E’s celebration to recognize these inspiring educators. It’s clear that they’re not only committed to making a difference for the students in their own classrooms, but also to making a stronger PreK-12 system that works for all kids, schools and teachers across the state.

The winners of the 2015 E4E Teacher Leadership Awards include:

  • Mary Frances Clardy: Mary Frances is a former classroom teacher and the current Elementary Literacy Content Coach at Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary in St. Paul Public Schools. She also serves on the Minnesota Board of Teaching, and has been active in E4E’s Teacher Diversity Policy Team. She is eager to see systemic solutions to recruit and retain more teachers of color, and to be involved in the policy-making process to do so.
  • Ben MacKenzie: Ben has been an educator for nearly a decade and currently teaches high school English at the FAIR School in downtown Minneapolis. From testifying at the Capitol to blogging, he has been very involved in E4E’s efforts to increase teacher diversity, and believes that his advocacy has enhanced his craft in the classroom.
  • Matt Proulx: Matt is a kindergarten teacher at Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary in the Spanish Dual Immersion program. As his school’s union steward and an E4E school team lead, he has organized, trained and recruited dozens of his colleagues, and most recently helped revamp Wellstone’s family nights.
  • Taylor Rub: Taylor is a special education teacher at Brightwater Montessori in North Minneapolis. Outside of the classroom, she has been very active in E4E’s Q Comp Policy Team, and has advocated at the Legislature to increase funding for this successful and innovative compensation program. Like many E4E members, Taylor believes that teachers’ voices and ideas should be included in the policy-making process.
  • Maetzin Saenz: Maetzin is a paraprofessional at Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary, where she has worked for four years. As a member of E4E’s Teacher Diversity Policy Team, she helped draft recommendations to fix the teacher pipeline to recruit, induct and retain more teachers of color.  She has also hosted focus groups and met with with state legislators to discuss these recommendations.

At MinnCAN, we specialize in policy, but know that we simply can’t do our work without the leadership, insight and deep engagement of educators who are in the classroom day to day. So, from our whole team, I want to thank these five teachers—and the many others they represent in spirit—for all they do to make Minnesota schools great. I also want to thank E4E for their efforts to organize—and recognize—such amazing teachers.

Finally, I want to encourage you all to stay tuned! Later this month we’ll announce a new cohort of MinnCAN Teacher Policy Fellows, whom we’re eager to see take the next step in their own journey as teacher leaders.


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