Roseville has two semifinalists for Teacher of the Year

Roseville Area Schools boasts two semifinalists for the 2019 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award.

Education Minnesota, the state teachers union and key sponsor of the award, announced Feb. 25 that Myriam Castro-Franco, a Spanish immersion teacher at Little Canada Elementary School, and Jeffrey Davies, an industrial technology teacher at Roseville Area High School, had made the cut.

The local educators are part of a field of 40 semifinalists — initially, there were 168 candidates for the award.


The semifinalists

Castro-Franco, 50, lives in St. Paul. Born in Bogota, Colombia, she grew up in Medellin, a city just northwest of Bogota.

“I remember when I was a child playing school and dreaming of someday [being] a teacher,” she said in an email.

“I love to be with children, they fill my soul with happiness and energy” said Castro-Franco. “Children keep me young and make me laugh, children have a good sense of humor and see the world with the eyes of ‘everything is possible.’ It is contagious.”

After graduating from the University of San Buenaventura in Medellin, she taught in the city for a decade before arriving in Minnesota 19 years ago as a visitor teacher through the Amity teacher exchange program.

In Minnesota she said she was forced to essentially redo her schooling. She hopped from Concordia University for her elementary teaching license, to Hamline University for her ESL license, to the University of Minnesota for her K-12 Spanish license and a certification in language immersion education.

After all that, Castro-Franco went back to Concordia for a master’s in educational leadership.

Throughout her career she said she’s worked with kids of all ages, and currently teaches a combined third and fourth grade Spanish immersion class. She’s taught in the Roseville district for three years.

“I enjoy their conversations about the important topics and the way they perceive the world and all that happens around them,” Castro-Franco said. 

Davies, 46, lives in West St. Paul. He’s from Lancaster, Wisconsin, and said that his profession was “a natural choice.”

“I come from a family that’s all teachers,” Davies said during a phone call, pointing out his father was an elementary school principal and that his mother was a social worker. His five brothers and sisters are also in the education field.

Davies said he landed at Roseville Area Middle School straight out of college in 1995 — he attended University of Wisconsin-Stout.

After 14 years at the middle school, he moved up to Roseville Area High School, currently teaching wood shop and construction trades.

“We’re building sheds and we’re selling them to the community,” said Davies of a particular trades program that’s now in its second year. It’s open to students in grades 10 through 12 and each year, they build a single structure. This year’s shed just sold; Davies said the first year’s shed was sold to Roseville City Council member Bob Willmus, who’s using it as an ice house.

Asked what keeps him going after two decades of teaching, Davies didn’t hesitate to answer.

“It’s a no-brainer — it’s working with the students for sure,” he said. “I like helping people ... [the students] are at the age in high school where they’re making really important decisions.”

“It’s rewarding, it really is.”


Coming next

A community panel will take the 40 semifinalists for the award and whittle that field down to around 10 finalists in the coming weeks. The 2019 Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be named at a May 5 event.

Two other north suburban teachers were previously named as candidates for the award: Jacob Hairrell, a physical science and physics teacher at Mounds View High School and Bill Sucha, band director at Irondale High School.

Educators from Roseville Area Schools have a decent track record with the state award. According to Education Minnesota’s website, Roseville teacher Maureen Sanger won it in 1988, Judy McCleery did it in 1986, Denneth Dvergsten won in 1975 and Theodore Molitor did it in 1969.

The winner of the Minnesota award is put in the running to be named National Teacher of the Year.


–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at or 651-748-7813. 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here