As students and faculty began streaming in to what had been a quiet gymnasium at Fillmore Central High School in Harmony, Minn., on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, the excitement seemed to echo through the gym as everyone wondered what was about to happen.
Jason Sethre, editor of the Fillmore County Journal spoke initially, explaining to the crowd that they were all in attendance for a very special occasion, as the Teacher of the Year would be presented to one of the Fillmore Central teachers.
Many nominations were received for educators throughout Fillmore County; nominated by current students, previous students, a parent or a colleague. All of the nominations had been narrowed down to one teacher, which was not an easy task.
Superintendent Richard Keith addressed those in attendance saying, “Every school in southeast Minnesota has great educators, let alone Fillmore County, so to be selected as Teacher of the Year from almost 300 educators is a great honor.” “Our Teacher of the Year has 27 years experience as an educator. In addition to teaching, she sponsors, leads, or coaches many different extracurricular activities,” stated Keith.
“In every aspect in her various roles as a teacher she has demonstrated tremendous passion for what she does and for what she is willing to do for students,” he said. “She’s a teacher, a motivator, and an inspiration for others,” noted Keith.
As Keith announced high school English teacher Jackie Whitacre as the 2019 Teacher of the Year, the students and faculty stood up, clapped their hands and cheered as Whitacre approached the podium to accept the award.
“I think the first word that comes to my mind is grateful — grateful for this job, grateful for the people I work with and all of you kids,” stated Whitacre. “This is a humbling experience,” she said, explaining that she comes from a long line of teachers including her mother, grandmother, sister, uncle and cousin.
She thanked all of the teachers who came before her and anyone planning to become an educator. Whitacre also thanked everyone she works with at the school, commenting that education is so important and she is happy to be working with so many great people. “I just can’t thank you all enough — it’s just really a wonderful shock,” she stated.
Whitacre was presented the Golden Apple Award from the Fillmore County Journal, as well as several items that she is sure to appreciate this summer and long beyond.
Katelin Redalen Ehler of Drury’s Furniture in Fountain, Minn., was on hand to present a La-Z-Boy recliner, Brad Hoiness of Harmony Foods, Rushford Foods and Preston Foods attended the presentation to furnish Whitacre with a $500 gift card, and Cody Koebke of Ody’s Country Meats & Catering of Spring Valley, Minn., presented the new Teacher of the Year with a Green Mountain grill (Daniel Boone model) and a bag of hardwood pellets so the grill is ready to be fired up.
Following the presentation Whitacre was congratulated and given hugs by faculty, students, sponsors, and a special hug from her mom who was in attendance.
Keith spoke of a few thoughts current students had shared with him about Whitacre including, “This teacher will always make time before, during or after school to meet with me,” and “She always puts the kids first — she always has time to talk about school and/or life.” These are only two of many examples of the kind words Whitacre’s students shared about her.
Superintendent Keith noted his gratitude to the Fillmore County Journal for taking the initiative to do this during Teacher Appreciation Week and also to the sponsors for the support and recognition our teachers deserve.
Teacher Appreciation Day is Tuesday, May 7, so take an extra moment out of your day to thank the teachers you know — because they give their extra moments to students every day.