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Shawn Stafki named Teacher of the Year

Shawn Stafki was selected by his colleagues as Perham-Dent’s 2013 Teacher of the Year. He has taught in the district for the past 19 years. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

Shawn Stafki has been named the Perham-Dent School District’s 2013 Teacher of the Year, it was announced last week.

A native of Perham, Stafki graduated from Perham High School in 1982 before studying biology and life sciences at Minnesota State University in Moorhead.

When he first began teaching in Perham, Stafki taught half of his classes at the Alternative Learning Center, and the other half at the high school, until accepting a full-time position at the high school.

Stafki has been teaching at PHS for 19 years. His current classes are biology, physical science and environmental studies.

“It’s really an honor,” said Stafki of being named Teacher of the Year. “There’re so many good teachers in this district, it’s hard to just pick one.”

Stafki was nominated for the award by Darren Glynn, who teaches at Prairie Wind Middle School and is also the Perham Education Association President.

“Shawn is light years ahead of the curve when it comes to implementing technology into his classroom,” Glynn wrote in an email to the Focus. “I can promise you that no other Education Minnesota candidate has a technology résumé equal to Shawn’s.”

Stafki has converted all of his class materials, including textbooks, in-class assignments and homework, to electronic versions.

“I saw that technology could be a wonderful tool, if used right,” said Stafki, explaining his use of the high school’s iPads in his classroom.

“Shawn is amazing,” Stafki’s co-worker, Sandra Wieser-Matthews, told the Focus. “He works long hours, after school, to constantly update his curriculum. He works hard for his students’ success … and he also wants to make sure any changes in education are really worthy for his students.”

In addition to teaching, Stafki also coaches the science research team extracurricular group.

“He devotes a tremendous amount of time toward it,” wrote Glynn. “It’s a great program for kids who don’t always fit into the ‘athletic model.’ He often uses his personal days to travel with students to the competitions.”

Stafki said he shares the credit for this award with Les Gunderson, Clarence Reuer and Bob Wilkowski. Les taught Stafki the “nuts and bolts.” Clarence taught him how to build relationships with students so he isn’t “just a face.” And Bob gave Stafki pointers for improvement.

“Without them, I never would have survived the job,” said Stafki.

As a district Teacher of the Year nominee and winner, Stafki is automatically eligible for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award.

The state award is organized by Education Minnesota, a statewide education union.

According to Education Minnesota, in order to be eligible for the state award, nominees must “teach pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, hold at least a bachelor’s degree and a Minnesota teaching license, have completed at least three full years of teaching and intend to teach during the next school year.”

The state award is scheduled to be announced in May.