Simone Haugen named semifinalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Turtle Lake Elementary School Principal Darin Johnson said fifth-grade teacher Simone Haugen is known for the enthusiasm she brings into the classroom, as well as her dedication to engaging her students in learning.

“Simone is someone who always pushes herself to be the best teacher she can be,” Johnson said. “She’s always trying to find new and different ways to reach students and has embraced some new methods that have made a real difference in the classroom.”

Members of Education Minnesota, which sponsors the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award, have taken notice of her passion for teaching and the commitment she has toward seeing each student succeed in their learning.

Haugen was chosen by Education Minnesota as one of 39 semifinalists for Teacher of the Year from hundreds of nominations from across the state.

“It’s a great honor to be nominated and to represent our schools and communities in the district,” Haugen said.

She said district 621 has been very supportive of its teachers and students by providing resources that support a higher level of learning. Teachers in her district are given the time and resources they need to share ideas and find ways to make the classroom time teachers have with students more effective, according to Haugen.  The district provides financial support for teachers like her to become Nationally Board Certified, for example.

“ I am the teacher I am today because of the professional training and support I have received while working in this district,” she said.

New teaching methods

Haugen is part of a group of teachers in the Mounds View district that have integrated “flipped” teaching methods into their classrooms, which have allowed for increased face-time with students.

Flip teaching is a relatively new concept and has been used in some other school districts around the country. It is especially popular when teaching math, but can be used as a method for any subject.

Instead of using the majority of class time lecturing and then assigning homework, as in traditional teaching, flipped instruction has students first study the material on their own at home, usually by watching pre-recorded lessons made by the teacher. The students then return to class the next day to work on problems or assignments in small groups. This allows the teacher to dedicate more time tutoring students in the small groups, or individually. The idea being that it enhances learning by maximizing one-on-one time with students who may be having difficulty with certain topics. It also allows students who have a firm understanding of the material to move on to more advanced problems or concepts during class, thus advancing their learning as well.

“I’m able to meet one-on-one with students or in small groups to help answer questions during class and ensure they are getting concepts,” Haugen explains. “It is also popular with parents, because they are more aware of what is going on in their child’s classroom.”

This is the first year Haugen has used flipped instruction in her classes, and said she has already seen very positive results among her students.

She said another benefit to flipped instruction is that a student can revisit a concept as many times as they need, since the lessons are recorded.

Haugen has also embraced other forms of technology to help her students learn. She was recognized as a 2012 TIES Exceptional Teacher for individualizing student instruction through her use of technology with Moodle and Google web applications for education.  

Additionally, Haugen is part of Turtle Lake’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support team (PBIS). The program takes a new approach to improve student academic and behavioral outcomes. It’s a system that has been implemented in other Mounds View schools that sets a standard for behavioral expectations for students.

“Simone has brought a great deal of energy to the PBIS committee, which has helped to support a positive environment for everyone at Turtle Lake,”  Johnson said.

Teacher of the Year list narrows in late March

There are two more stages in the competition that the 39 semifinalists must to go through before one is selected as Minnesota Teacher of the Year in May.

“The next step [in the process] is the panel will reconvene and look at the 39 portfolios that remain and they will narrow down those to ten finalists by late March,” Staff Coordinator for the Teacher of the Year Program Doug Dooher explained.

Dooher said the 10 finalists then attend the 2013 Minnesota Teacher of the Year ceremony on May 5, where they will be interviewed by the 25-person panel that later announces the winner.

This year’s ceremony will be held at the Marriott Minneapolis Northwest on Sunday, May 5.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7824.

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