2010 Teacher Outstanding Performance (TOP) Award Winners
Friday, April 23rd, 2010

For the 14th year, the Anoka-Hennepin School District is recognizing excellent teachers through its Teacher Outstanding Performance (TOP) Award program.

The TOP Award program involves the Anoka-Hennepin community in recognizing exemplary teachers for their efforts. TOP Award winners are selected based on nominations from students, parents and fellow teachers.

A committee of parents, students, community members and district administrators reviews the nominations and selects the winners, who are honored at a ceremony at the Anoka-Hennepin Learning Center. Winning teachers represent less than 1 percent of the district's 2,700 teachers. Each TOP winner received a cash prize from the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation (AHEF).

Initiated in 1996 through a three-year grant from the Medtronic Foundation, the TOP Award program is now funded through Anoka-Hennepin School District and AHEF.


Ben Dwyer, first grade, Johnsville Elementary School
Jefferson J. Fietek, theater arts specialist, Fred Moore Middle School Center for the Arts
Ann Hanson-Hobot, deaf/hard of hearing, Coon Rapids and Roosevelt middle schools, Johnsville Elementary School
John Keran, fifth grade, Adams Elementary School
Alysia Nahring, first grade, Andover Elementary School
Tracey Wahlquist, speech language pathologist, Early Childhood Special Education

TOP Award Winners 2010
The winners were recognized on April 27 during a celebration event at the district's Learning Center/Distribution Complex. Photo (left to right): Tracey Wahlquist, Alysa Nahring, Jefferson J. Fietek, Ann Hanson-Hobot, Ben Dwyer and John Keran. 

SchoolCenter PictureBen Dwyer, first grade, Johnsville Elementary School

Ben Dwyer is a graduate of Elk River Area High School, Elk River, Minn. He received his bachelor's degree in political science and elementary education from Hamline University and his master's degree in teaching and learning from St. Mary's University, Winona.

Dwyer began teaching in Anoka-Hennepin in 2001. He taught for one year at McKinley Elementary before moving to Johnsville Elementary, where he has taught for eight years. He is a member of Johnsville's site-level improvement project (SLIP) team and a district primary ILA teacher leader. His class Web site won third runner-up honors in SchoolCenter's 2009 National Imaginative Website contest.

The parents who nominated Dwyer praised his classroom's "peaceful environment." They admired his use of technology, from interactive whiteboards to daily podcasts. "I felt as if I was in the classroom with my child! When I would listen to the podcast with my child, she would elaborate on things he would touch on, eliminating a one-word answer to 'How was your day?'"

Ben Dwyer's personal statement: "At the heart of effective teaching is the establishment of a strong and trusting relationship between the teacher and the student. Every day I ask my students to take risks and made mistakes to achieve, and hopefully surpass, the goals I have set for them. For them to feel safe taking those risks, I have to work hard each day to show my students that I care about them as a whole person, not just as a student."

SchoolCenter PictureJefferson J. Fietek, theater arts specialist, Fred Moore Middle School Center for the Arts
Jefferson Fietek is a graduate of Coon Rapids High School. He received his bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University - Moorhead and his teaching license from the University of St. Thomas. He holds a master's of fine arts degree from Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill.

Fietek started his teaching career at Fred Moore five years ago, helping to launch the specialty school program there. He helped to build the theater program, and serves as the department leader. He is also the advisor for the school's drama club and the Gay-Straight Alliance. Fietek was honored with the 2009 Ordway Center Education Award for Community Commitment for his work at Fred Moore and with the Young Artists Initiative.

The parent who nominated Jefferson talked about all the ways that he inspires his students to create and be involved in theater. "He allows his students to explore their imagination and their own personalities in a way that they can express through acting and theater. He understands every student is not the same and they all have different talents and skills."

Jefferson Fietek's personal statement: "I believe that every child has the capacity to learn and part of the joy of teaching is trying to figure out what strategies and methods will help them to understand that. I also believe in setting high expectations for young artists. Youth like to be successful and if you set the bar high and give them the tools, they can reach it. It is such a thrill to see them surprise themselves with their ability to succeed."

SchoolCenter PictureAnn Hanson-Hobot, deaf/hard of hearing, Coon Rapids and Roosevelt middle schools, Johnsville Elementary School
Ann Hanson-Hobot is a graduate of Washington High School, Sioux Falls, S.D. She received her bachelor's degree in deaf and elementary education from Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Ann has been teaching in Anoka-Hennepin schools for 23 years, starting at Roosevelt Middle School in 1987. After eight years there, she taught at Coon Rapids Middle School for 15 years. Her current position has her working with students primarily at Coon Rapids Middle School, but also as an itinerant teacher at Roosevelt and Johnsville. Prior to that, she taught in Ottumwa Community Schools, Ottumwa, Iowa.

The Coon Rapids Middle School student who nominated Ann for the award said her teacher was her role model and taught her how much she could do. "She was talking to me about college plans before most middle-schoolers even think about college. She wanted me to do the best I could, she taught me I was just as smart as everyone else. Mrs. Hanson-Hobot helped me learn by taking the time to make sure I learned in the best way possible. She is the reason I accept myself with pride."

Ann Hanson-Hobot's personal statement: "Teaching is an art form that draws its inspiration from the desire to captivate and nourish the innate curiosity for learning that resides within each student. Moreover, it is a collaborative effort that exceeds the boundaries of the classroom. My family and colleagues, along with the parents of my students, and a vast array of community resources have all contributed to this ongoing creative process. What a privilege it is to be part of such an honorable endeavor!"

SchoolCenter PictureJohn
Keran, fifth grade, Adams Elementary School

John Keran is a graduate of Park Center Senior High School. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and his teaching license from Augsburg College. He also holds a Master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the College of St. Catherine's.

John has been teaching in Anoka-Hennepin schools for 10 years, starting at L.O. Jacob Elementary. He has been at Adams Elementary for a year and a half. He is an intermediate grades integrated language arts representative and a former member of the school SLIP team. He is also a community soccer coach.

The student who nominated John for the award appreciated his classroom humor and structure. "Mr. Keran makes us laugh but also remember what we are learning. He demonstrates fairness by treating us all the same. We all get a second chance. Mr. Keran runs a tight ship. We all know the rules and he enforces them. We respect Mr. Keran because of his leadership and teaching style. Thank you Mr. Keran, for all you do for us!"

John Keran's personal statement: "My goal is to create learning opportunities that will challenge my students both inside and outside the classroom Students should come to my class ready to learn something new and share their experiences with their classmates. It is important that my students understand who they are now will shape who they become."

SchoolCenter PictureAlysia Nahring, first grade, Andover Elementary School

Alysia Nahring is a graduate of Anoka High School. She received her bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.

Alysia has taught in the Anoka-Hennepin district for 10 years, one year at Johnsville Elementary and the last nine at Andover. She is a representative for the Prevention Intervention Team (PIT) at Andover. She is also been an active member of the literacy committee and has been a member of the Family Fun Night committee.

The parent and fellow teacher who nominated Alysia for the award was impressed with her ability to engage students and parents in the classroom. "As parents we were invited into the classroom numerous times to see our son read, share his stories during authors' tea, share his portfolio and many other celebrations. The kids would do anything for her; they never wanted to disappoint her. When a 7-year-old sulks while getting off the bus on the last day of school, that must have been an incredible teacher."

Alysia Nahring's personal statement: "In my classroom, it's essential to make meaningful connections with each student so they're motivated and have the desire to learn in addition to the ability to apply what I share with them each day. Knowing my students inside and out enables me to set high expectations for all, even if the expectations are not the same. It's very important to meet the students at their level, and then push them to achieve more."

SchoolCenter PictureTracey Wahlquist, speech language pathologist, Early Childhood Special Education
Tracey Wahlquist is a graduate of Craig Senior High School, Janesville, Wisc. She received her bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. She has been teaching in Anoka-Hennepin's Early Childhood Special Education Early Intervention program for 23 years. She began teaching in 1984, working for a private agency before moving to the district in 1987 as a teacher in the 3- to 5-year-old program.

The parent who nominated Tracey for the TOP Award praised her work with her 19-month-old son, who has a disorder that puts him at risk for speech problems. "Tracey has educated us on what sounds are developed first in an infant and what to listen for. She has done special studies on the use of tones in speech, which we incorporated into our daily lives. She has modeled and taught us signs, which we use to communicate with [our son]. She goes above and beyond what is expected in the valuable life skills and lessons she has taught our son and our whole family."

In her application, Tracey talked about her approach to teaching: "A child's first word enables him to connect with the world. As a speech language pathologist, facilitating this communication is my passion. Recognition of the parents' need to be involved with the intervention process enables the family to be part of the success."

Tracey Wahlquis's personal statement: "As a speech language pathologist, teaching a child the power of language is a life-changing event for that child and a privilege for those involved in this endeavor."