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'Mr. Rach rocks!': Kids heartily approve of Perham-Dent's pick for Teacher of the Year

Connie Vandermay/FOCUS Heart of the Lakes Elementary School fourth grade teacher Lance Rach was announced last week as Perham-Dent School District's Teacher of the Year. In celebration, he was paraded around the hallways of the school last Friday as students lined up to cheer for him.1 / 2
Connie Vandermay/FOCUS Bre Wouta and  Bree Schossow waved a poster during the Teacher of the Year celebration at Heart of the Lakes Elementary last week.2 / 2

"Mr. Rach rocks!"

Those were the words on one of many posters held up by cheering elementary school students that lined the halls at Heart of the Lakes in Perham last week.

The kids were celebrating the Teacher of the Year announcement honoring fourth grade teacher Lance Rach.

After the announcement, Rach climbed on the back of a floor scrubber decorated in streamers, and slowly made a lap around the school, offering high fives to the cheering kids.

Rach was nominated for the award by the Perham Education Association leadership team. He will be representing all teachers of the Perham-Dent School District as a candidate for Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

Back in the classroom, Rach told his students, "I'm honored and I'm humbled. I'm accepting this because of all the teachers that have helped you. Great teachers come from great kids."

Rach has been teaching in Perham-Dent schools for 19 years. He's taught first, third, and currently, fourth grade math, science and social studies.

After the celebration last week, the 46 fourth graders who spend their mornings or afternoons with Rach quickly offered many reasons why they thought he was the best representative for the district.

"He's so nice," said Dakotah Watercott.

Classmate Dylan Pribbenow quickly confirmed this and added, "He makes you keep trying. He always has a smile on his face."

Julia Johnson said she likes Rach because, "He says 'Never give up.'"

Crisavy Seeman said, "He makes math fun."

"He tells a lot of jokes," said Mara Haberer.

"He makes Mara laugh harder than anyone else," said Cian Buehler. Then he gave this example of a funny moment in class: "One time (Rach) was standing on his computer desk trying to touch the ceiling."

Though all the kids were quick to say what a fun place Rach's classroom was, many appreciated all the ways Rach has helped them learn.

"He makes us learn by singing," said Stephanie Dickerson.

Madison Strom said, "He tells stories about life that help in math."

Then there were the stories students offered Rach helping them through their own math struggles.

Hermione Roberts said, "He really helps us work through really hard problems and actually makes it easy for us."

Kylie Applen said, "Last year I had trouble with math, but this year, the way he explains it, it's easy."

"It was really hard for me to learn multiplication, but he helped me get through," said Emily Kirchenwitz.

Maggie Trites tried to explain why math is easier with Mr. Rach. She said, "He teaches us different methods that don't exist."

Alivia Trepanier offered this example of one of those methods: "This year I had trouble with double multiplication, but he taught me the 'barn door' method so now I'm really good at it."

The kids like the respect they receive from Rach, too. Cody Ahart said he especially likes when Rach, "gives us options." For example, if they finish their assignment, they have options on what to do next.

All in all, students said they have learned more than math, science and social studies from Rach.

"He teaches us good life lessons," said Madison Rose.

"He thinks about us," Breanna Boomgaarden and Avery Beachy agreed.

Skylar Nelson added, "When he goes home, he worries about us." 

Conversations with the kids in Rach's class upheld a statement from Principal Kari Yates on why Rach was the perfect representative for Perham teachers: "Lance always puts relationships with students first.  He knows that the best learning happens only when kids feel a true sense of connection and belonging."