BY PAUL DOWNER
Delano Public Schools
DELANO, MN It has been a memorable year for Marie Techam, who earned a Leadership in Educational Excellence Award in October, and was named the Delano Public Schools’ 2018 Teacher of the Year in November.
The high school social worker does not preside over a conventional classroom, but instead provides support to students in the areas of mental, social, and emotional wellness.
The Delano Teachers Association votes from a list of candidates for a Teacher of the Year, and selected Techam to represent the district at the state level.
“Being named Teacher of the Year is such an honor and definitely one of the highlights of my career,” Techam said. “Since moving to Delano, working here, and having my kids go to school here, I have been truly amazed by the excellent teaching staff and support personnel we have. Our district employees overall are so dedicated to helping students, and go above and beyond to give students a quality education. To be a school social worker getting this honor, it truly is a testament to the teachers and how much they value all areas of helping students.”
A nomination written by Shallyn Tordeur, alternative education instructor and School Within a School director for Delano, recognized Techam for working behind the scenes to help both students and staff perform to their full potential.
“She’s witnessed and helped not only students but staff in their darkest moments, and is an advocate for all,” Tordeur wrote. “Marie embodies what every teacher should be. She is caring and respected, and never asks anything from others. She strives for each student to feel loved, and helps each teacher know the importance of this. She truly is a gift to Delano.”
In Delano since 2005
Techam is in her 11th year at Delano, and 18th overall as a social worker in education. The Little Falls native graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 1999, with a bachelor’s degree in social work, and earned her master’s degree in education from St. Mary’s University in 2003.
“I went into this career to help kids. I like social work because it allows you to help people help themselves,” Techam said. “My philosophy of education is that every child deserves a safe and nurturing place to learn. Every student should feel a sense of belonging when they walk into school each day. I have witnessed firsthand the weight that is lifted off of a student’s shoulders when they simply are able to talk about some of the problems they are experiencing with a trusted adult.”
Her first job was at the Minnesota River Valley Special Education Cooperative in Jordan, where she served emotional-behavioral disorder students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade from 2000 until 2005. From 2005 to 2007, she worked for the Ogilvie schools, focusing on truancy and family collaboration.
Techam joined Delano as the social worker for grades 5-12 in 2007, and, after a middle school social worker was hired, began to focus exclusively on high school students in 2015.
“The most enjoyable part of my job is when I witness change within a student,” Techam said. “When they learn coping skills or strategies to help themselves through a difficult situation, it is so gratifying to see. In working with high school students, I often get to witness them taking control over important areas within their lives and making choices to better their future. To see a student start to improve in their self-esteem and confidence, and be able to advocate for him/herself makes me so proud of them.”
A fulfilling career
Techam works with individuals as well as groups. Some of the groups she has facilitated over the years focused on grief and loss, emotional regulation, cognitive behavior skills, anxiety, family change, social skills, friendship, and ADHD/impulse control.
Along with Tordeur, she also started the school’s COMPASS (Character, Opportunity, Mentorship, Perseverance, Academics, Service, and Success) program in January of 2016, which focuses on volunteer projects and organizes an annual suicide awareness and prevention day.
“We are so proud of this program and how it is making a difference in the lives of many of our students,” she said.
Techam added that mental health and suicide prevention are her passion within social work, and that she has been able to form Delano’s first suicide risk assessment procedure. Another aspect of her work includes coordinating various resources from outside the district to aid students, including Wright County’s Human Services and Public Health departments, The Central Minnesota Mental Health Center, and the Rivers of Hope Domestic Violence Center.
“Our students are faced with so many challenges, many that we aren’t even aware of, and it is our job to help them come to a place in which they feel they are supported and are able to work through anything that may be getting in the way of their learning,” said Techam. “Each student has something unique and valuable to offer, and as educators, we can find that quality within each of them.”
Techam lives in Delano with her husband, Terry, a math teacher in Orono, who serves as the Delano varsity boys basketball coach; and three children who are students in Delano. They are Derek, a high school junior; Trent, an eighth-grader; and Grace, a first-grader.
Outside of work, Techam said she enjoys spending a large portion of her time at her children’s basketball games.
“It’s so fun to see my children be dedicated members of teams and learn all of the important life skills that sports can instill in young people’s lives,” Techam said. “I love spending time with my family.”