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Long hours, patience pays off for 2014 Teacher of the Year

West Fargo High School math teacher Randy Holzkamm was named Teacher of the Year. Dave Wallis

Over his 24-year tenure, math teacher Randy Holzkamm would routinely arrive much earlier than students and staff at West Fargo High School.

A special key eventually had to be made for the teacher known for his soft demeanor and quiet patience so he could continue his long hours of preparing for students.

The time and attention Holzkamm devoted to his students and subjects may have seemed like small contributions but added up to a big impact on all those he has taught and coached over the years. And on Monday, Holzkamm was recognized publicly, when Superintendent David Flowers announced Holzkamm was named the 2013-2014 West Fargo Public School District Teacher of the Year.

“I never thought of myself as someone who does big things,” Holzkamm said Monday. “I feel very unworthy of this.”

While his fellow West Fargo High School teachers and staff sprang into a standing ovation, Holzkamm sat in shock, shaking his head in disbelief.

Later, Holzkamm joked he felt a mixture of shock, disbelief and nausea, but his fellow teachers and family who arrived to share in the surprise were positive the district’s annual award could not have went to anyone more deserving.

The multitude of fellow teachers who nominated him for this year’s award disagreed. Flowers said the many submissions nominating Holzkamm said that Holzkamm embodied all the qualities that make a good teacher great and demonstrated those principals every day.

“He will do anything possible in order to assist a student’s understanding, and he never allows a student to quit trying until he knows that the student is able to independently solve a problem,” the submissions said. “It is not uncommon to see former graduates return to seek guidance and assistance from Randy.”

Flowers said the teachers wrote that Holzkamm patiently explains difficult concepts to his students. Holzkamm strives to challenge high achieving students while following a pace that can help those struggling in his classes.

“He makes learning a really boring subject fun,” wrote on teacher when nominating Holzkamm for the award.

Above all, Flowers said, Holzkamm consistently shows students he cares about them and believes in them.

“His calm composure and reassurance encourage many students to persevere and builds their mathematical confidence,” Flowers said.

The qualities of an excellent teacher that Holzkamm demonstrates are the same ones that he wrote about when applying for a teaching position in West Fargo in 1990, Flowers said.

“I’m not sure I knew at that time what I thought it took to be a good teacher but I’m not sure I could write something better now,” Holzkamm said. “If you understand the students are the most important thing at the center of everything, than you can be a great teacher.”

The Hillsboro, N.D., native has been a teacher in West Fargo for 24 years after starting his career in South Dakota. Holzkamm has also served as head volleyball coach for 12 years, is currently an assistant track coach and has long involved in international student programs.

Holzkamm’ s sister, Beth Mammenga and her husband Roger Mammenga, who along with daughter Jessica and son-in-law Jeff Morris, helped surprise Holzkamm when the announcement was made at West Fargo high school on Monday. A group of former students also attended the surprise ceremony.

“He is so humble but he is everything that they said,” Roger Mammenga said.