State’s education pioneers deserve hall of fame

Joe Nathan
Education Columnist

Wouldn’t it be valuable for Minnesota to honor – all together, in one place that thousands of people could visit – educators who have had a profound impact on students?

Might they someday have their pictures posted and accomplishments recognized publicly? It could happen if Minnesota created something that Oklahoma has: a statewide “Educators Hall of Fame.”

While on a recent visit to Oklahoma City, I walked through a hall toward the room where the Oklahoma State Board of Education meets. The walls were covered with pictures and plaques describing the accomplishments of more than 80 marvelous Oklahoma Educators. They included teachers, principals, superintendents and college faculty, Oklahoma equivalents of people like:

–Donald Draayer, of Minnetonka, and Kenneth Dragseth, of Edina, who were named Minnesota and National Superintendents of the Year.

–Lesa Clarkson, of the University of Minnesota’s math department, who has received many awards, and made presentations around the U.S. and in other countries because she helps teachers improve students’ math skills.

–Milo Cutter, co-founder of Minnesota’s first operating charter school, and a member, with her school, of the National Charter School Hall of Fame.

–Mary Beth Blegen, of Worthington, former Minnesota and National Teacher of the Year.

–Megan Hall, St. Paul public school teacher and current Minnesota Teacher of the Year.

–Sandra Peterson, of New Hope, former special education teacher, president of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers and later an influential Minnesota state legislator.

–Gen Olson, of Minnetrista, former vocational education teacher and director, former Minnesota state senator and chair of the Senate Education Committee.

It was inspirational to see pictures and read about the accomplishments of remarkable educators. Why not something like this at the Minnesota Department of Education? How about Hall at the Mall of America? Thousands of people could walk by and learn about great educators.

The overall cost is modest – about $12,000 to $15,000 a year, according to Sharon Lease, executive director of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame. Lease has been an educator for 38 years, serving as a teacher, principal, guidance counselor superintendent and now vice-provost and dean at an Oklahoma university.

She told me by phone that the hall has a simple mission: “We honor people who have had a profound impact on students’ lives.” The hall began in 1984 and recognizes three or four educators a year.

Minnesota currently has programs recognizing teachers, principals, superintendents or college faculty. I checked with Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers union, and Charlie Kyte, former superintendent and executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. They agreed that Minnesota has nothing like the Oklahoma Hall that honors all kinds of educators, together in one place.

Lease and Stacy Nix, another veteran educator who is president of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame, told me that they would gladly share information. Their emails are on the hall’s website:

There’s plenty of negative energy around. A Minnesota Educators Hall of Fame could be a regular reminder that excellent educators do “have a profound impact on students’ lives.”

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome at [email protected]

  • So long as Education Minnesota doesn’t turn it into a political joke as they did with the so-called Teacher of the Year award most recently.

    • Foodonastick

      First Mr. Langness think Senator Franken is a joke
      Now the Teacher of the Year Award is a joke
      I’m sensing a pattern her that Mr. Langness doesn’t take anyone serious if he disagrees with them
      He is kind of a microcosm of what is wrong with politicians, bitter partisanship

      • You’re quite wrong. I highly respect many members of the DFL and simply disagree with their politics most of the time. Franken is just not one of them.

        • Foodonastick

          Never mentioned political parties, only bitter partisanship
          Your political comments generally indicate a “my way or the highway”y attitude and usually you resort to name calling and insults if the conversation carries on
          The perfect example is the word ignorant concerning the lawsuit
          Because you and Mr. Piper believe I support the new city hall you resort to insults and misleading statements that indicate that the lawsuit was continued on by Judge Hoffman. It would not have continue unless Mr. Piper and his group appealed Judge Hoffman’s decision.
          My issue is not that I believe a new city hall is needed, it is simply that I believe the voters elect the city government to make those types of decisions; two completely different issues
          In my mind, your position is that the lawsuit is an absolutely; no chance that the people suing are wrong, has lead you to deny fact and write misleading comments about how the lawsuit stayed alive.
          Bitter Partisanship; no flexibility or thought that other people’s opinions have any merit (my definition)

          • FOS (since you hide behind your real identity) –

            Here are a few people with differing political views that I respect:
            Paul Wellstone – I do realize he’s dead, but he campaigned like a liberal, voted like a liberal and stood behind his liberal beliefs. I respected him because he was honest. Never would I have even considered voting for him because of his views.
            Susan Young (city council) – She has always taken the time to hear me out, listen to my concerns and respond in a respectful manner, even when we disagreed. I often disagree with her votes but respect her because of her dedication to listen to all sides and give her reasons directly for disagreement.

            I could go on all day with persons up and down the political ladder but hopefully you get my point here and I’ll move onto your other comments.

            Ignorant means that you don’t have all the facts. You’ve repeatedly proven your ignorance. It is no more name-calling than you calling me partisan. I am quite partisan and btw the word is generally (when talking about politics) in reference to a political party. Your opinions would matter much more to me if they were based on facts. Often you only give bits and pieces rather than the whole story.

            For the record, I do believe the city is in need of some additional space / remodeling, maybe even a new complex as it might be more fiscally responsible. I’m not sold on it being as grandiose as it is planned and quite firmly believe that a bonding project of this size and scope (nearly twice the annual budget) should be passed via referendum. I also believe that a properly planned project that is fiscally structured well would receive the thumbs up from the majority of voters in this community.

          • Eric Langness, pa-leeeze! First you were against gay marriage then you were for it. You were against The Unions(with all the fervor of Wisc Gov Paul Walker) then you were Paul Wellstone, for them. You were for the Republican party platform and then you were against it. You have no political scruples. You’re one of these so called progressive free lancers who runs off flippantly without saying anything except which he feels is pertinent in the moment.

            Food on a Stick, his real name Pronto Pup, simply ain’t buying it. He’s seen too many Hot Dogs in his day already. If it looks like a duck and quack like a duck, it’s a duck. What I say here isn’t mean spirited but instead calling it as I see it. You aren’t no Paul Wellstone and you sure ain’t no Ronald Reagan.

          • Flip-flopping isn’t something I have a history of doing. You seem to take my words out of context to the point I’ll let readers go back and read the original statement.