Jim Hill teacher Kristi Reinke tries to keep geography interesting

Andrea Johnson/MDN Kristi Reinke, a geography teacher at Jim Hill Middle School, is teacher of the year for the Minot Public Schools.

Minot Public Schools teacher of the year Kristi Reinke is always trying to make things new.

“I definitely am not a do the same thing over and over again (teacher),” said Reinke, who teaches seventh-grade world geography at Jim Hill Middle School. “In fact, my first couple of weeks of school I start all over. I don’t even look at my teacher plans from last year.”

Every year she has a new group of students, who might learn entirely differently from the group of students the year before.

Even her lessons with a group of kids she teaches in the morning might be a little bit different than the lessons she teaches students in the afternoon.

“There are so many great things to do out there,” she said, so why not “try all the different things there are and see what works best?”

Reinke has spent years putting her classroom together and there are different spots for kids who like to wiggle and move in their chairs while they study, ordinary chairs for kids who like to stay still, and a quiet reading corner.

Seventh-graders in her classes will enjoy talking over the internet with other classes from different geographical locations.

“So they’ll stand in front of the computer and they’ll ask a question like, ‘Are you north of the equator?’ And then the whole class will answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and then they’ll ask us a question back (like) ‘Are you west of the Mississippi River?’ “

The two classes of students question each other about time zones and regions.

It’s a way for Reinke to gauge how much her students really understand about geography without testing them with pen and paper.

When they study South America, Reinke might get out a set of classroom virtual reality goggles and let her students see what South America looks like.

She also borrows successful ideas from other teachers.

“I try to keep adding new and unique ways to get kids interested and to stay interested in geography,” said Reinke, who earned her undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in special education at Minot State University. She has taught for 14 years in the Minot Public Schools and for two years prior to that was educational support staff.

Kristi Reinke has also presented at a number of seminars. She served as president of the Minot Education Association for the past two years and this year is vice president of the association.

Reinke has also taught her own children in the classroom. When she had her sons in her class, she was always “Mrs. Reinke” and they were like her other students.

She and her husband, Jason Reinke, have three children attending the Minot Public Schools.

Teaching is a family affair for the Reinkes. Jason Reinke is a math teacher at Minot High School-Central Campus.

Kristi Reinke said her husband enjoys teaching high school age students and she really loves teaching middle school students.

“I literally get to see someone turn into a teenager every single day,” said Kristi Reinke. “I love this grade because, you know, they’re still little and they still like high fives and hugs but yet they’re kind of finding themselves and becoming teenagers and independent and so it’s a great age.”

She said she is extremely honored to be chosen as teacher of the year and was somewhat overwhelmed by all of the congratulations she has received this week.

Today is the first day of school for Reinke, her fellow teachers and for Minot Public School students.

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