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Knodel named ND Teacher of Year

Aaron Knodel was named 2014 Teacher of the Year. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

In a perfect way to cap off West Fargo High School’s homecoming week, language arts teacher Aaron Knodel was named North Dakota’s 2014 Teacher of the Year in front of students and staff in the high school gymnasium.

“I am just deeply humbled and honored,” Knodel said. “It is an incredible award, but it really is a reflection of the awesome people I have around me. We have an amazing staff, and anything I have done goes back to these people who taught me how to do this.”

Knodel has been teaching at West Fargo High School since the 2004 school year. He is also teaching part-time at the transitioning Sheyenne High School, much to the delight of Sheyenne principal Greg Grooters.

“When Aaron turns around, there are a lot of students behind him,” Grooters said.

Knodel was one of four finalists for the award, which included Julie Jaeger, an elementary-level gifted education teacher from Minot Public Schools; Debra Nelson, a Bottineau High School science teacher; and Kristi Shanenko, an English language arts teacher from Valley City Junior-Senior High School.

“These finalists just seep charisma and knowledge,” Knodel said. “I don’t know what it is that set me apart, but I feel blessed.”

Knodel was awarded during a presentation at the school led by state superintendent Kirsten Baesler and Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who stressed the importance of education in the state.

“There are thousands of teachers in North Dakota,” Dalrymple told the crowd. “To be one of the four finalists here is truly a tremendous honor. North Dakota has one of the finest education systems in the nation, and that is due, in large part, to the people in the classrooms. ”

The announcement was met with a standing ovation from the hundreds of students and staff in attendance.

“You could not have picked a better educator to represent teaching in the state of North Dakota,” West Fargo principal Jennifer Fremstad said. “He is so dynamic and committed. I couldn’t say enough about him.”

While he considers the award an honor, Knodel insists that it is never something he strived for, and he simply plans to return to the classroom and continue what he has done for the past nine years.

“This has never been a goal of mine,” Knodel said. “This is simply a byproduct of something I am passionate about. As far as I am concerned, my only goal is to be better at what I do. I tell my students that the byproduct of my class is your grade, but it better not be your goal. That is how I view my situation. Any accolade like this is just icing on the cake.”

Knodel is now up for the national Teacher of the Year competition.