Earlier this winter, Education Minnesota released a list of 131 candidates for the 2023 Minnesota Teacher of the Year awards. That list has now shrunk considerably to a pool of 44 semifinalists, and two educators from Osseo Area Schools are among them. The district’s semifinalists include Lance Fredrickson from Oak View Elementary School and Jennifer Hairrell from Maple Grove Middle School.
Lance Fredrickson adopts the philosophy of “leading with love” as he teaches kindergarten at Oak View Elementary School. He said he’s grateful for the chance to step into a child’s educational life at the beginning to set the tone for their school experience. He has been a teacher with Osseo Area Schools for 20 years, with the past six at Oak View. Fredrickson said he knew from an early age that he wanted to work with young kids, and he spent his teen and young adult years teaching dance and volunteering in his church’s nursery.
“There’s a lot of power and promise in the early years,” he said. “You’re laying a foundation for their whole life, and they’re sponges for learning and opportunity. It’s really exciting to think I could help create lifelong learners.”
Fredrickson said the experience of being nominated for and selected as a semifinalist for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award has been humbling and heartwarming. He said he feels the universe called him to do this work, and he’s grateful for a career where he gets to make a difference.
“It has been overwhelming in a really lovely way,” he said. “When I got to read the letters of people praising my work and my interactions with their kids, to me that’s the award right there. My heart and soul that I’ve poured into something: they saw it.”
Inspiring internships at a bilingual preschool and a South Minneapolis non-profit organization changed the trajectory of Hairrell’s life as a college student, leading her to switch her major from journalism to education. She has taught at Osseo Area Schools for 18 years now in four different schools, both as an English Language (EL) teacher and a Spanish teacher, and most recently she’s been at Maple Grove Middle School for the past four years.
“I’ve always loved working with kids, so it seemed like teaching would be a natural route so I could pair my love of language and learning with working with kids,” she said.
Hairell said she enjoys teaching a second language because of all the benefits it brings kids, from their brain development to their understanding of different cultures and experiencing multiple life perspectives. When she found out she had been selected as a semifinalist for the 2023 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, Hairrell said she was surprised and very honored and proud.
“I work very hard for my students, and I have had a lot of great colleagues and people who have helped me get to the point I’m at in my career,” she said. “If I hadn’t had those amazing colleagues, I might not have developed my skills the way I’ve been able to.”