BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced today that Kristi Reinke, a social studies teacher at Jim Hill Middle School in Minot, has been named the 2021 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.
Reinke was chosen from a group of four finalists for the annual honor. The other three were Jana Gudmundson, a technology integration specialist and instructional coach at Park River Area Schools; Dana Kasowski, a Wahpeton Middle School special education teacher; and Cory Volk, a science teacher at Bismarck’s South Central High School.
“Kristi Reinke not only embraces the philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child, she lives it every day in her classroom, creating a sense of community with her students and colleagues and laying the foundation for positive relationships that lead to positive outcomes,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful for Mrs. Reinke and all of these passionate and dedicated finalists who care deeply about their students and empower them with the knowledge and skills they need to reach their fullest potential.”
Baesler has expanded the state’s Teacher of the Year program as part of her efforts to celebrate, honor, and recognize North Dakota teachers. She sought nominations for the honor from across North Dakota, and earlier named Teachers of the Year from 19 counties. Four of those county Teachers of the Year were named as finalists for the state honor.
An eight-member selection committee interviewed the finalists and chose Reinke as the 2021 Teacher of the Year. She succeeds Sara Medalen, a reading and math interventionist at Sunnyside Elementary School in Minot.
Reinke thanked her family, colleagues, and students during the ceremony. “I am thankful to get to explore another path along my teacher journey,” she said.
“I am thankful to my colleagues at Minot Public Schools, and especially to my co-workers at Jim Hill Middle School. And I mean everybody,” she said. “I hear you and I see you. You inspire me every single day and push me to be a better teacher.
“Being a teacher is where I belong,” she continued. “Something else I know, with all the unknown and the uncertainty of the school year, I am certain more than ever that teachers are unbelievable.”
“Every day, Mrs. Reinke’s goal is to do her best to create a sense of community, in her classroom, the hallways, with her colleagues, and within her district,” Baesler said. “She believes it is important to lead by example and to set the foundation for positive relationships with everyone around her.
“Ms. Reinke is a shining example of the best our teaching profession has to offer, in North Dakota or anywhere else in our country,” Baesler said.
Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, which represents teachers and public employees, said North Dakotans have been grateful for educators’ response to the pandemic.
“Your commitment to excellence in education and your dedication to creating loving, safe, creative learning spaces for your students has earned you the admiration and respect of all North Dakotans,” Archuleta said. “I think there is a newfound appreciation for what it is that you do every day in your classroom, how creative you are, how much you inspire your students, and how much you love your students.”
Reinke is now a candidate for the national Teacher of the Year award, which is named by the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C. The organization typically names four finalists in January and the national Teacher of the Year honoree in the spring.
The county Teachers of the Year are:
- Burleigh County: Cory Volk, a science teacher at Bismarck’s South Central High School;
- Bottineau County: Jessica Marsh, a 3rd-6th grade English teacher at Newburg United School;
- Burke County: Elizabeth Loeks, a 2nd grade teacher at Powers Lake Elementary School;
- Cass County: Kimmy Milligan, a student performance strategist at Eagles Elementary School in Fargo;
- Dickey County: Kalyn Haafke, a 7th-9th grade English teacher at Oakes Public Schools;
- Emmons County: Joleen Silbernagel, a 7th-12th grade mathematics teacher at Strasburg High School;
- Foster County: Claudia Park, a librarian and teacher at Carrington Public Schools;
- Grand Forks County (2): Eileen Zygarlicke, an English teacher at Grand Forks Community High School, and Jacqueline Zikmund, a high school mathematics teacher at Midway Public Schools in Inkster;
- McKenzie County: Alexandria Brummond, a prekindergarten-12th grade science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, and robotics teacher at Alexander Public Schools;
- McLean County: Brooklyn Schaan, a Title 1 reading and mathematics teacher at Washburn Public Schools;
- Mountrail County: Nancy Reimer, a business and computer teacher at New Town Public Schools;
- Nelson County: Chad Berger, a high school social studies teacher at Dakota Prairie School in Petersburg;
- Ramsey County: Diane Mertens, a special education teacher at Devils Lake High School;
- Renville County: Kimberly Brown, a Title 1 elementary teacher and instructional strategist at Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood Public Schools;
- Richland County: Dana Kasowski, a Wahpeton Middle School special education teacher;
- Sargent County: Rebeka Helm, a 7th-12th grade English teacher at North Sargent Public Schools in Gwinner;
- Stark County: Amanda Fisher, a counselor at Jefferson Elementary School in Dickinson;
- Walsh County: Jana Gudmundson, a technology integration specialist and instructional coach at Park River Area Schools; and
- Ward County: Kristi Reinke, a social studies teacher at Jim Hill Middle School in Minot.
The eight members of the Teacher of the Year selection committee are:
- Alexis Baxley, director of the North Dakota School Boards Association.
- Sarah Keiser Johnson, special projects coordinator, North Dakota United.
- Russ Ziegler, assistant director, North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders.
- Tracy Friesen, academic advancement coordinator, Light of Christ Catholic Schools.
- Mark Wagner, assistant state director, Department of Career and Technical Education.
- Sara Medalen, 2020 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.
- Kayla Dornfeld, 2019 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.
- Tara Fuhrer, director of early learning, North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.