Two East Side teachers are candidates for Teacher of the Year

The list of 114 candidates for 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award was released Feb. 3. Among them were two East Side teachers, Koua Yang and Juanita Ortiz. 

Koua Yang is a human geography and Asian American studies teacher at Harding Senior High School. Yang is also the boys and girls tennis coach. Yang said this is his 13th year of teaching.

“I am very, very much humbled by the candidacy,” said Yang, who has been teaching for 13 years. “There are so many great teachers.”

Yang grew up in St. Paul, attended St. Paul Public Schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Augsburg College. “I’m a product of St. Paul,” Yang said, with a smile. 

Juanita Ortiz is a Spanish/LCD teacher at Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet. When she was 9 years old, her family moved to Minnesota from El Paso, Texas, and after high school she attended Mankato State University.

According to the Phalen Lake website, Ortiz was named Latino Teacher of the Year in October of 2015 and has been teaching for 10 years.

This year’s program will name the 52nd Minnesota Teacher of the Year, celebrating the tradition of excellence in teaching in Minnesota. 

Candidates include pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade and Adult Basic Education teachers, from public or private schools. 

These candidates have accepted their nominations and completed the required materials to become eligible for the honor.

According to the Education Minnesota website, in order to be nominated, teachers were required to meet the following criteria: They must teach pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, hold at least a bachelor’s degree and a Minnesota teaching license, have completed at least three full years of teaching by nomination deadline, and intend to teach during the next school year. 

The 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be announced Sunday, May 15, at the Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. 

Over the coming weeks, a 25-member panel of community leaders will name a group of semifinalists and finalists.

The Teacher of the Year holds the position for 12 months. 

—Marjorie Otto


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