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Sunnyside celebrates teacher of the year finalist Sara Medalen

Andrea Johnson/MDN Sunnyside Elementary reading and math interventionist Sara Medalen is a finalist for the 2020 North Dakota Teacher of the Year. She was celebrated at a school assembly on Friday afternoon.

Sunnyside Elementary students cheered, sang and danced on Friday afternoon in honor of their teacher, reading and math interventionist Sara Medalen, who is a finalist for the 2020 North Dakota Teacher of the Year Award.

Medalen, who was also last year’s Minot Education Association teacher of the year, urged the children to shine like the stars they are and said their teachers know they are going to do important things.

Medalen believes it is important to build relationships with the kids to help them learn. She leads a group to empower girls at the school and also combines styling kids’ hair while they read books to her in the groups “Books and Braids” and “Dudes and ‘Dos.” She also started a running group for students and leads STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Saturdays, a group that encourages kids to build critical thinking and problem-solving skills, according to a press release from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

Medalen said she is honored to be chosen as one of the finalists.

Sunnyside’s principal, Cindy Cook, said Medalen’s biggest asset “is just her constant optimism, and belief that everybody in the building has something more to learn, and has something to give and to bring to everyone else,” according to the press release. Medalen “is constantly encouraging all of us to be lifelong learners. Here’s more things you can be trying and doing,” Cook said in the press release. “She never runs out of energy to support the students and the other teachers in accomplishing things here at school.”

There are five finalists for the 2020 North Dakota Teacher of the Year award. They are Medalen; Sara Thompson, an instructional coach and reading specialist at Sweetwater Elementary School in Devils Lake; Dr. Karyn Chiapella, a special education teacher and intervention specialist at the Scranton public school; Jessica Brandt, a Title 1 English and reading teacher at Casselton’s Central Cass school; and Susan Lillian McPherson, an English Language teacher at Northern Cass Public School in Hunter.

The winner will be announced Sept. 30.

State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler will travel to all of the schools where the finalists teach to help celebrate them.

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