Other’s Opinion: Teacher of the Year winners reaffirm why teaching matters

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A St. Paul teacher who calls her profession “honorable” was honored herself this week when she became Minnesota’s 51st Teacher of the Year. Amy Hewett-Olatunde, who teaches writing and English to immigrant students at LEAP High School, received the prestigious award on Sunday.

LEAP enrolls students up to age 20 who are new arrivals to the U.S. and are not native English speakers. Hewett-Olatunde’s selection highlights the growing number of foreign-born students and the importance of English-language-learner programs.

“The profession of teaching is often a thankless job and open to scrutiny, but to spend hours … devoted to our children is something honorable,” Hewett-Olatunde said in her nomination portfolio. During a radio interview, she said she plans to spend her top teacher year advocating for English-learner students.

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Hewett-Olatunde has been teaching at LEAP since 1999 and recently received her Ph.D. in education from Hamline University.

The Teacher of the Year award shines a spotlight on outstanding teaching and reminds us of the impact teachers can have on young people. Most of us have fond memories of special teachers who truly cared and made learning come alive.

Hewett-Olatunde’s honor came just days after last year’s winner, Tom Rademacher, was honored at the White House. Rademacher is an English teacher at the downtown Minneapolis FAIR School.

With Rademacher and the nation’s other top teachers on the stairs behind him, President Obama said at the ceremony: “America’s future is written in our classrooms. … We all depend on our teachers, whether we have kids in the schools or not. They deserve our support and our appreciation.”

And they merit admiration for making a difference in the lives of children.

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