Michelle Bliven, a math and physical education teacher at Minot High School-Souris River Camps, is the first teacher in the state to receive the NDALL Alternative Educator of the Year Award. This was the first year that award was given.
Bliven, a longtime educator in the Minot Public Schools, said she has always made an extra effort to get to know her students, some of whom are dealing with challenging circumstances.
"They know I care about them," said Bliven.
Souris River Campus principal Ned Strand, who nominated Bliven, said Bliven has helped increase student achievement and tries a variety of different teaching methods in the classroom, many of them aimed at different learning styles. Bliven, who teaches different math classes, said she knows some students have difficulty with math and might be intimidated by it, but she does whatever it takes to help them learn the concept. By the end of the year she hopes some of them will like math.
"To most students, she is not only a teacher, but a mother figure whom they feel comfortable asking for advice from about things going on in their personal lives," said Strand. "These relationships are quite evident as many students stop by the school each year to share updates in their lives. Students have shared with me that they continue to come back to see Michelle because 'For the first time a teacher has cared for me as a person, not just as another troubled student.' It is this caring nature that helps students continue their success beyond the classroom."
Souris River Campus serves students in need of alternative education who are between the ages of 16 and 21. Students attend the school for a variety of reasons, sometimes due to academic difficulties or challenges in their personal lives. Strand said some students who have attended the school are supporting themselves and/or their families with full-time or part-time jobs. When they leave school at the end of the day, they go to work, so the school doesn't assign homework. Instead, students work on their classwork during an hour built in at the end of the day.
Bliven was the recipient of the Minot Public Schools Teacher of the Year Award in 2001 when she was teaching math at Central Campus. She transferred to Souris River Campus shortly thereafter.
She also continues to be involved in the community and was instrumental in creating, establishing and continuing to lead the Dream Catchers, a group of children with moderate to severe physical disabilities that plays baseball in the spring and summer months. Bliven has a son who has special needs and said that might also help her relate to her students.