SMSU graduate honored by WCCO as Educator of Excellence

MARSHALL — Marshall High School and Southwest Minnesota State University graduate Danielle Beekman was recognized on WCCO Television last Wednesday morning as an Excellent Educator of the Week.

Beekman teaches fourth grade at Red Rock Elementary in Woodbury where she has established a unique classroom setting.

“(WCCO) came in on Thursday of last week and surprised me,” Beekman said. “I was completely shocked. My kids were all sitting at their desks, which is unusual. Seeing my kids’ reaction was more important than my recognition.”

The students all applauded at the announcement that their teacher had been selected for the honor of Excellent Educator of the Week.

Kim Johnson of WCCO conducted the interview. WCCO gave her a framed certificate commemorating the honor.

Beekman said she had never heard of the Excellent Educator award before, but apparently some nominations had been made.

“It’s mysterious,” she said.

The award is for those educators who go above and beyond the usual.

“My room is a positive learning environment with lots of colors and flexible seating,” Beekman said. “There are areas for conferencing (reviewing material), pub style seating and a library section.”

Kids even sit on the floor, she told WCCO, and under her sink, wherever they feel comfortable and can learn with their own style.

“I have an economy system set up in my classroom,” Beekman said, “where each child has a classroom checkbook and earns value for completing classroom jobs. They learn life skills with social studies and math. I open a classroom store every other Friday where they spend their earnings. It’s part of classroom management that students really love.”

There are 29 students in her class, and she handles all the core subjects for them.

“It’s about building relationships with the students and the parents,” Beekman said. “I have a lot of fun. We do a lot of movement in the classroom. We play music and do scavenger hunts for their assignments. We have fun.”

Beekman also coaches volleyball for Park High School in Cottage Grove.

“The biggest thing for both teaching and coaching,” she said, “is to see the growth from what they come in with and what they leave with. Not just as a student or a player, but as a person. I like to see what they walk away with and see them succeed and to be a part of their success.”

This is only Beekman’s second year in teaching, and she’s already being recognized for her education innovation.

Beekman’s interview can be found on