We appreciate all of our hard-working teachers across the state and all that they do to educate children, but one Minot teacher is grabbing national attention as she continues to commit countless hours to better serve her students. 

Inside the halls of Sunnyside Elementary School in Minot, you’ll find Sara Medalen, a Title 1 reading and math interventionist who loves what she does.

“I come from a family of life-long learners and a family who just values education,” Medalen said.

Dedicating nearly 30 years to teaching, Medalen has spent more than half of that at Sunnyside.

“I wouldn’t want to be at any other school. I just have this huge connection with these kids,” she said.

Medalen’s strong connection has only inspired her to create various programs.

“A lot of the initiatives that I’ve started have been about providing equitable opportunities for students,” Medalen said.

One of her more popular programs is “Books and Braids.”

“So, the kids come to my room in the morning before school, before my contracted teaching hours, and they read to me while I braid their hair,” she said.

And she even made a spin-off themed “Dude’s and Do’s.”

“Never in a million years did I think boys would want to come have me spiff up their hair and hang out with me, but it’s absolutely crazy how much fun it has been,” Medalen said.

Her creative initiatives are no small task and don’t go unnoticed.

“When I first came here I didn’t like reading at all, but once I came here she made me like reading,“ fourth-grader Jameer Sanchez said.

“I liked when she did my hair because me and her just talked and had a good time,” fourth-grader Kamri Young said.

Over the last few years, Medalen has piled a list of accolades from the Celebrate Literacy Award from the North Dakota Literacy Association and even being named the 2020 North Dakota Teacher of the Year, but now Medalen has been awarded the Horace Mann Award for teaching excellence by the National Education Association — which could lead to an even bigger recognition. 

“I’m up for the National Education Association Salute to Excellence in Education award, and so there are five finalists,” Medalen said, all of which have been interviewed and are still waiting to hear who has won.

But if you ask Medalen, she says she’s already a winner.

“I am lucky. The best part about any of it is that I have a job that after 29 years I still love to come to every day and still have passion for, so I think that says it all,” she said.

Medalen says she, along with the other finalists, will attend a virtual gala on Feb. 12 where they’ll learn who won the big award.

File footage from 2017 was used in the above video.