Robbinsdale Area Schools

Armstrong High School teacher a candidate for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Armstrong High School AP environmental science teacher Kathy Kneeland has been named a candidate for Minnesota’s 2021 Teacher of the Year award.

She’s joined by 74 other teachers statewide as candidates for the honor, which is organized and underwritten by Education Minnesota, the 70,000-member statewide educators union.

“It’s nice to be recognized for what I do,” said Kneeland. “At the same time, I know I work with a group of amazing teachers at Armstrong, so it does feel strange to be singled out.”

Kneeland, who is an Armstrong alum herself (class of 1984), has been a teacher with Robbinsdale Area Schools for 27 years, the last 22 as a science educator at Armstrong.

As a teacher, she said she’s always looking for new or creative ways to engage her students, and empowers them to use their unique skills to demonstrate their understanding.

“Sometimes (my students) make videos or posters, or write children's books,” Kneeland said. “This can help to engage students who don’t traditionally think of themselves as ‘good at science’ because they can see that scientific understanding can be expressed in many different ways.”

She also said it’s important to her to help students understand the global impact of their actions, and to give them the information to choose a path in life that is important to them. 

“I don't know that these (things) make me stand out in comparison to my colleagues, but I think it represents who I am as a teacher,” Kneeland said.

Peter Eckhoff, president of the Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers, said he’s thrilled a deserving district educator is up for the award. 

“We are excited to have another wonderful teacher from Robbinsdale nominated for recognition as teacher of the year,” he said. “She will be a great candidate for this honor.”

This isn’t the first time a Robbinsdale Area Schools teacher has been up for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. Last year, Lakeview Elementary School kindergarten teacher Janet Rein, and Sandburg Middle School earth and life sciences teacher Billie Pace-Graczyk-Melson were named candidates for the award.

This year is the 57th the award will be given, and candidates from around the state include pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade and Adult Basic Education teachers, from both public and private schools.

Sometime in the next couple weeks, a panel of community leaders from around the state will whittle the 75 total candidates down to a much smaller group of semifinalists, and then finalists. A banquet to announce the 2021 Minnesota Teacher of the Year is tentatively scheduled for May 2 at the Saint Paul RiverCenter, but that could be postponed or canceled due to COVID.

Robbinsdale Area Schools will have more about Kneeland’s candidacy as the process moves forward.