Excellence in Teaching

Minnetonka Awards for Child-Centered Excellence in Teaching

This award seeks to select the best representatives of the many outstanding teachers in the Minnetonka School District. The award includes recognition at every level and from every school. This award will serve as local recognition and the District’s nominating procedure for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year program.

2019 award recipients

  • Liz Leingang, Clear Springs Elementary
  • Emily Langan, Deephaven Elementary
  • Tarah Cummings, Excelsior Elementary
  • Jessica Stephens, Groveland Elementary
  • Carly Brown, Minnewashta Elementary
  • Allison Wachutka, Scenic Heights Elementary
  • Lisa Turner, Minnetonka Community Education Center
  • Anna Schoeneberger, Minnetonka Middle School East
  • Courtney Ziebarth, Minnetonka Middle School West
  • Beowulf Boswell, Minnetonka High School
  • Stephanie Lolich, Minnetonka High School

Award criteria

  • Demonstrates exemplary commitment, enthusiasm, student-focus, effectiveness, and professionalism.
  • Displays personal and professional integrity.
  • Advocates for the best interest of students; addresses emotional and developmental needs of students.
  • Employs a wide range of educational and scientific research in teaching, including effective practices in differentiation—pulling the best out of each student.
  • Exhibits a genuine love of children and a professional commitment to children’s learning.
  • Creates a positive, supportive, respectful and disciplined atmosphere for personal and academic achievement to flourish.
  • Demonstrates a commitment to professional growth, school improvement, and community involvement.
  • All licensed teachers are eligible for nomination.

Nomination process

  • Any Minnetonka colleague, administrator, student, parent, community member, or alumnus may make the nomination. Self-nominations are not accepted.
  • The nomination shall include:
    • Nominator’s name and phone number
    • Nominee’s name, job title, and school or department
    • Answers to the following questions
      • Briefly describe this nominee’s strengths in relation to the criteria for this award.
      • Briefly describe how this nominee displays a genuine love of children and commitment to their learning.
      • Briefly describe how this nominee demonstrates best practices in teaching.
      • Briefly describe this nominee’s involvement in our schools and community, beyond regular duties.
  • Submit one or more letters of support which share personal observations of how the nominee demonstrates a commitment to child-centered excellence. It is suggested that letters be from both an employee and non-employee of the District.
  • Deadline is March 8.
  • One finalist from each school (two from MHS) and DEC are selected by a recognition or Tonka Pride committee at each site and shall be notified in late April.
  • The District Recognition Committee selects two teachers from among the finalists to represent Minnetonka in the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Program. District support will be provided to complete the two state nominations.

The Awards

Past Recipients


  • Lynn Bleeker, Kindergarten Teacher, Clear Springs Elementary
  • Kristi Bruckschen, Special Education Teacher, Deephaven Elementary
  • Maria Chopite, First Grade Spanish Immersion Teacher, Minnewashta Elementary
  • Clinton Fenner, Science Teacher, Minnetonka High School
  • Kelly Fisher, Reading Teacher, Excelsior Elementary
  • Paul Johnson, Kindergarten Teacher, Groveland Elementary
  • Meghan Mullen, Sixth Grade Teacher, Minnetonka Middle School West
  • Julie Jo Nawrocki, Fifth Grade Teacher, Scenic Heights Elementary
  • Dawn Norton, Science Teacher, Minnetonka High School
  • Ann Ricketts, ECFE Teacher, Minnetonka Community Education
  • Leah Thorson, Math Teacher, Minnetonka Middle School East


  • Anita Britton, Scenic Heights Elementary
  • Sarah Davis, Minnetonka Community Education
  • Shelly Dekker, Groveland Elementary
  • Elizabeth Frye, Excelsior Elementary
  • Becky Holscher, Minnetonka Middle School East
  • Bethany Holt, Minnetonka High School
  • Laural Johnson, Minnetonka High School
  • Jennifer Morcomb, Minnetonka Middle School West
  • Blanca Munguia, Clear Springs Elementary
  • Jessica Rojas, Deephaven Elementary
  • Christina Velasquez-Leyva, Minnewashta Elementary


*2017 Teacher-of-the Year Nominees

  • Jeff Beckstrom - MMW
  • Darren Best - MHS
  • Linda Bonine - Groveland
  • Graciela Brizuela - Minnewashta
  • Kim Ewen - Clear Springs
  • Sarah Finn-Sommerfeld - MHS*
  • Megan Hill - Deephaven*
  • Mary Beth Huttlin - Scenic Heights
  • Sarah Koopman - MCEC
  • Yan Li - Excelsior
  • Liz McAllister - MME


  • Amy Altenburg, Teacher Scenic Heights
  • Carole Carlson, Teacher Clear Springs
  • Dan Peso, Teacher MHS
  • Debbie Moss, Teacher Deephaven
  • Heather Daldoul, Teacher MHS
  • Kim Folkers, Teacher MME
  • Lisa Lund, Teacher Minnewashta
  • Lisa Lewis, Teacher MMW
  • Michelle Makres, OT MCEC/ECSE
  • Sheri Simpson, Teacher Groveland
  • Heather Stowman, Teacher Excelsior


  • Mary Benson, Minnetonka Middle School West, Teacher
  • Melanie Dewitt, Traveling Teacher
  • Carolina DuFault, Clear Springs Elementary, Teacher
  • Jill Erickson, Minnewashta Elementary, Teacher
  • Chris Hentges, Deephaven Elementary, Teacher
  • Jennifer Kitt, Excelsior Elementary, Teacher
  • Mary Kolstad, Groveland Elementary, Teacher
  • Cindy McGlasson, Middle School East, Mathematics Teacher
  • Renee Morabito, Minnetonka High School, Teacher
  • Vicki Qualley, Minnetonka Preschool, Teacher
  • Mary Beth Rissmann, Scenic Heights Elementary, Teacher
  • Dave Surver, Minnetonka High School, Teacher


  • Courtney Balcer, Minnetonka Preschool, Special Education Teacher
  • Connie Kensinger, Clear Springs Elementary, Teacher
  • Kathy Fox, Deephaven Elementary, Reading Specialist
  • Amy O’Neill, Excelsior Elementary, Teacher
  • Kelly Kautz, Groveland Elementary, Teacher
  • Chris Haun, Minnewashta Elementary, Teacher
  • Jonathan Maki, Scenic Heights, Art Teacher
  • Kathleen Terhaar, Middle School East, Language Arts Teacher
  • Jeanne Sammelson, Minnetonka Middle School West, Teacher
  • Mandy Kasowicz, Minnetonka High School, Teacher
  • Matt Moran, Minnetonka High School, Teacher


  • Mary Miller, MCEC, ECSE Teacher
  • Meghan Heldman, Clear Springs, Teacher
  • Jane Sladky Valley, Deephaven, Teacher
  • Jennifer Hanson, Excelsior, Teacher
  • Niki Danou, Groveland, Teacher
  • Brendan McCashin, Minnewashta, Teacher
  • Lori Anderson, Scenic heights, Teacher
  • Kate Ohrt, MME, Teacher
  • Polly Pfeifer, MMW, Teacher
  • Kim Seamans, MHS, Teacher
  • Sonja Saunders, MHS, Teacher


  • Karen Hughes-Hoffner, MCEC, Teacher
  • Nicole Snedden, Clear Springs, Teacher
  • Karl Boberg, Deephaven, Teacher
  • Jeri Braun, Excelsior, Teacher
  • Heidi Hammerback, Groveland, Teacher
  • Julia Antonsen, Minnewashta, Teacher
  • Melinda Barry, Scenic Heights, Teacher
  • Angie Kallman, MME, Teacher
  • Mary Callahan, MMW, Teacher
  • Paula Holmberg, MHS, Teacher
  • Christopher Pears, MHS, Teacher


  • Gail O'Rourke, MCEC
  • Rick Buchholz, Clear Springs Elementary
  • Tim Ketel, Excelsior Elementary
  • Jeremy Engebreston, Groveland Elementary
  • Amber Rathmann, Minnewashta Elementary
  • Lisa Roden, Scenic Heights Elementary (Awarded Posthumously)
  • Renee Roels, MME
  • Aaron Olivier, MMW
  • Kim Hoehne, MHS
  • Glenn Skoy, MHS


  • Brenna Noland, Early Childhood Special Education
  • Joan Larson, Clear Springs Elementary
  • Janetta Gong, Deephaven Elementary
  • Katie Nelson, Excelsior Elementary
  • Georgia Rasmus, Groveland Elementary
  • Mike Borgendale, Minnewashta Elementary
  • Jennifer Cho, Scenic Heights Elementary
  • Michelle (Scott) MacKinney, Minnetonka Middle School East
  • Tony Mosser, Minnetonka Middle School West
  • Miles Mortensen, Minnetonka High School
  • Polly Patrick, Minnetonka High School


  • Margaret Coldwell, ECFE
  • Deb Jensen, Clear Springs Elementary, Speech Specialist
  • Janelle Baarsch, Deephaven Elementary, 1st Grade
  • Mark Broten, Excelsior Elementary, 3rd Grade
  • Sara Lovelace, Groveland Elementary, 2nd Grade
  • Sue Hudgens, Minnewashta Elementary, 2nd Grade
  • Mary Renz, Scenic Heights Elementary, Music Specialist
  • Sandy Krantz-O’Neil, Middle School, Reading Specialist
  • Susan Brzezinski, Middle School West, Language Arts
  • Ann Hersman, Minnetonka High School, Math
  • Sue Sinkler, Minnetonka High School, Language Arts


  • Deb Hughes, Deephaven Education Center, ECFE
  • Andy Lundheim, Clear Springs Elementary, 1st Grade
  • Lynn Owens, Deephaven Elementary, 2nd Grade
  • Lisa Reisenauer, Excelsior Elementary, 3rd Grade
  • Jane Meyer, Groveland Elementary, Art Specialist
  • Cathy Arriola, Minnewashta Elementary, 2nd Grade
  • Dawn Christesen, Scenic Heights Elementary, 4th Grade
  • Joan Anderson, Traveling Teacher, Band
  • Mary Fenwick, Middle School East, Math
  • Tom Condon, Middle School West, Math
  • Francie Byers, Minnetonka High School, Reading Specialist
  • Terri Ellis, Minnetonka High School, Math


  • Mary Beth Bloom, Deephaven Education Center, ECSE
  • Debbie Engel, Clear Springs, Kindergarten
  • Rachel Polanski, Deephaven, Kindergarten
  • Carrie Foster, Excelsior, 1st Grade
  • Brent Frank, Groveland, 5th grade
  • Melanie Casiday, Minnewashta, Art Specialist
  • Colleen Puzak, Scenic Heights, 1st grade
  • Jerry Bartow, Minnetonka Middle School East, Language Arts
  • Kelly Lewis, Minnetonka Middle School West, Math
  • Doug Kennedy, Minnetonka High School, Social Studies
  • Emily Rosengren, Minnetonka High School, Social Studies
  • Lynne Forster, Traveling Teacher, High Potential


  • Patti Berger, Groveland
  • Kaari Cox, Clear Springs
  • Paula Crist, Minnetonka High School
  • Deanne Hoppe, Minnetonka Middle School West
  • Erin Klaers, Minnewashta
  • Lisa Krall, Excelsior
  • Peter Lee, Scenic Heights
  • Paul Rosen, Minnetonka High School & Minnetonka Middle School West
  • Barbara VanPilsum, Minnetonka High School
  • Sara White, Minnetonka Middle School East
  • Jean Widell, Deephaven Education Center
  • Kathy Williamson, Deephaven Elementary School