By Jen Bakken
Students at Delano Public Schools look forward to attending classes with Gwen Briesemeister, the gifted and talented coordinator.
“She’s my favorite teacher,” said Delano Middle School student Julienna Lillehei. “She always answers questions and makes things interesting.”
Many students feel the same way, and would agree Briesemeister is a teacher who deserves to be recognized for her dedication to education.
During a routine staff assembly June 2, Briesemeister was surprised with some special news. She was named as a recipient of a 2008 WEM Outstanding Educator Award for Academic Coach of the Year, an honor that is accompanied by a $10,000 award.
She is one of six educators being honored by the WEM Foundation and the Center for Academic Excellence for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to student learning.
Briesemeister is one of two recipients of the WEM Foundation’s statewide academic coach of the year award, which recognizes coaches of student teams who participate and compete in academic challenge or enrichment programs endorsed by the Minnesota Academic League Council.
“I see the joy she brings my kids. When they come home from school on a ‘Mrs. Briesemeister day,’ it is the first thing I hear about,” said Stephanie Schreyer, a parent of children attending Delano Public Schools. “They tell me all about what they did and what they learned with such excitement and enthusiasm. That is exactly the kind of school experience I want for my kids.”
Briesemeister uses measurable and anecdotal data to develop programs that address students’ strengths and weaknesses. Her goal is for them to see the importance of their learning immediately and its relevance for their future, so they don’t simply acquire knowledge, but are able to apply, analyze, and evaluate it.
She has established academically-challenging opportunities for students such as a publishing center, math lab, advanced reading and math programs for elementary students, advanced math options for seventh and eighth grade students, along with cluster classrooms to meet the needs of exceptional learners in the middle school and a variety of advanced and honors courses for high school students.
This well-liked teacher organizes academic enrichments and competition such as math masters, inventors congress, word power challenge, battle of the books competition, science fair, math olympiad, history day, It’s Global film competition, and StockStock film competition.
Briesemeister strives to find opportunities for students to display their interest and talents.
Several years ago, she organized the annual Delano High School Film Festival, where students have the opportunity to display their filmmaking talent at the local theater, which has become a very popular event.
“Gwen is an integral part of the staff,” said Melody Soderberg, eighth grade language arts instructor at Delano Middle School. “And, because of her, our students can feed the fires of imagination, creativity, and passion. Their light burns brightly in Delano.”
Educators are first nominated for the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program by students, parents, colleagues, or community members. Those who accept the nomination provide additional information for review and consideration by the Center for Academic Excellence and a blue ribbon selection panel, which reviews and ranks the nominees.
In addition to the academic coach of the year, two honorees are named for the ethics in education award and the teacher achievement award categories.
Along with the six statewide honorees, four educators in each category will also be named as regional honorees for 2008. Those names will be announced later this month.
For more information on the WEM Outstanding Educator Awards Program and the Center for Academic Excellence, visit www.mncae.org.