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John’s Journal: Let’s Celebrate Minnesota's Future Teachers

Events In Willmar, Maple Lake, Burnsville Do Just That

Posted: Monday, May 9, 2022 - 9:37 AM


Future educators from Willmar High School sign letters of intent.

Maple Lake

WILLMAR -- One by one, a dozen soon-to-be graduates of Willmar High School stood up and talked briefly about why they want to become teachers. The reasons were varied but they were similar in their sense of service.

--“I want to inspire children.”

--“I want to make a difference.”

--“I want to help shape the next generation.”

--“I know how much a teacher can change lives.”

The kids were honored one morning before school last week at a gathering to honor members of Willmar’s Class of 2022 who are headed off to college to become educators. The students were joined by parents or mentors and teachers who have made a difference in their own lives.

Breakfast was served before principal Paul Schmitz welcomed everyone to the happy gathering. Tammy Knapper, representing the teachers in Willmar, spoke about the importance of educators, and I was honored to speak to the group, too. I talked about my mom and my daughter, who are both educators, and the teacher who had the greatest impact on my life.

Her name was Mrs. White and she was my high school English teacher. She knew I loved sports, she seemed to think I had some writing ability and when I was in 10th grade she encouraged me to write about our school’s sporting events for the local weekly newspaper. That was in 1974 and 48 years later I’m still writing. I think of Mrs. White often and I wish she was still alive so I could say thank you.

In 2017 I learned that Norwalk High School in Iowa was holding a signing ceremony for future teachers, much like many schools do for students who will be college athletes. I spoke with Norwalk superintendent D.T. Magee and teacher Johanna MacKenzie about their first signing ceremony in May 2017 and wrote about the idea here on John’s Journal.

Magee said the idea for the signing ceremony came to him as a way to highlight the crucial role of educators in America. “When I became a superintendent, I said to our staff on the first day, ‘We have to do a better job of promoting and honoring our profession.’ This ceremony dovetails off of that. We’re going to put some things in front of students who want to go into education: It’s a good career choice, a noble career choice, and we as educators support you.”

In 2018, Maple Lake High School became the first school in Minnesota to hold a similar ceremony. Burnsville did the same in 2018 and Willmar joined in 2019.

The pandemic put a stop to such gatherings but they are back in 2022. Maple Lake held a signing ceremony the same day as Willmar’s event and Burnsville will honor its future teachers on May 18. (If other schools are doing the same, I would love it if they would let me know via the email address below.)

The future teachers in Willmar are headed off to the University of Minnesota, Crown College, Minnesota Morris, South Dakota State, Southwest Minnesota State, College of St. Benedict, North Dakota State, Concordia College and others.

The Willmar event culminated with each of the future educators signing a “letter of intent.” They read in part, “I want to inspire in my students motivation to achieve excellence. I promise to provide a safe learning space for all students. I want to teach future generations, to encourage them to be brave, to be strong, to stand up for what matters to them, but most of all to be kind to one another.”

--Read a story from the National Education Association about Minnesota’s future teacher signing ceremonies here:

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 

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