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Rasmussen North Dakota's top teacher

Verna Rasmussen, a first grade teacher at Westside Elementary in West Fargo, was named 2008 North Dakota Teacher of the Year during the NDEA Instructional Conference in Minot Oct. 18, 2007.

Rasmussen says when she was young she was always sharing her love of learning with others. "I was teaching my cats to lie on their back and drink milk out of a doll's bottle, teaching younger children in 4-H how to cook and sew, or reaching small children in Sunday schools classes," she said. "I have always had a passion for learning, and so I wanted to help others learn.

Rasmussen did not begin her career in teaching though. After graduating from NDSU with a teaching degree in home economics, she began her education career as an Urban 4-H Agent with the Cass County Extension Service. But, after a few years, Rasmussen realized she really missed the personal contact she used to have with children. "I decided I wanted to change careers and become an elementary teacher," she said.

"I completed my elementary degree in 1991 and began substitute teaching in area schools," she said. "Six weeks later, I was hired to teach a fourth grade class in Fargo for the remainder of the year. I was on my way to fulfilling my dream of becoming a teacher!"

The following fall Rasmussen was offered a first grade teaching position at West Fargo. She then accepted a first grade teaching position with Westside Elementary and has been there ever since.

Rasmussen says that her greatest accomplishment in her educational career is knowing she has helped nearly 400 children learn how to read. "The joy of helping a young, unsure, hesitant reader blossom into a strong, independent, confident reader is a miracle I get to share in each year as I welcome a new group of children into my classroom," she said. "What greater satisfaction could a person ask for? I feel honored and privileged to have made a life-long impact on so many lives.

"Along the same line," said Rasmussen, "is the delight I feel as I share the enchantment of a great book with my little ones. I feel successful with I see children's eyes light up, smiles that stretch from ear to ear, and everyone begging to 'please, please can we read it again.'"

Rasmussen feels that one of the traits that make her a good teacher is she always wants to learn more. "I am constantly reading books, magazines, and searching the Internet for good, solid, well-researched teaching methods that will help me become a more effective teacher."

As 2008 North Dakota Teacher of the Year, Rasmussen says her message to colleagues across the United States will be to keep working hard towards being the best and most effective teacher you can be. Set high goals for yourself and your students. Then, do all that you can to help yourself and your students meet those goals. "Keep the passion for teaching alive in your hearts every day as you teach your students, knowing they are our future," she said.