For the second year in the row, a teacher from Minot has been given a top honor. Kristi Reinke, from Jim Hill Middle School, was named the North Dakota Teacher of the Year.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I know I was there. I saw the videos, I saw the pictures, but it’s just so surreal,” said Reinke.
She had the same thoughts last week when she found out that she was the 1 of 4 finalists for the award. The seventh-grade geography teacher says she’s shocked, in part, because teaching wasn’t her first choice as a career.
“After I graduated from college, I moved out to Washington, D.C. and teaching wasn’t even on the horizon for me. I was out there during 9/11. I shortly came home afterward and was just really influenced by a lot of educators that I knew, including my husband,” added the teacher.
That influence would launch her career. She went back to her alma mater, Minot State, and received a degree in Social Sciences Education.
Reinke added, “So I ended up getting a job as an education support professional at Magic City working with at-risk kids.”
The next year, she transitioned to Jim Hill Middle School where she’s been for over 15 years now.
Along the way, she’s influenced a few people herself. Of course, she wouldn’t tell you that but one of her students will.
“She’s really opened my eyes to wanting to learn more. School is not the most favorite thing for people, but she made it one of my favorite classes,” said student Erin McLean.
And it doesn’t just stop with her students.
“She keeps me young and innovated. She’s always doing new things. One of the things that I want to do, that she does regularly, is skyping people from all over the world,” said Pete Stenberg, a fellow teacher.
“Her unbridled compassion and enthusiasm in the classroom is what makes the magic happen. You just can’t fake that,” added Jim Hill Principal Mike Arlien.
So what’s next for the 2021 teacher of the year? She says sticking to what she knows best.
“I thought about that! I’m thinking, ‘Oh gosh, now what do I have to do?’ But to be honest, I think I was given this honor, because of the things I already do in my classroom and I already do in my school, and I’m going to continue to do those things,” said Reinke.
A lesson we can all learn from.
Mrs. Reinke is now a candidate for the national Teacher of the Year award, which is named by the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C.
Four finalists will be named in January.