‘Unexpected’ honor

Amanda Jelen named teacher of the year for Marshall Public Schools

Photo by Deb Gau Marshall School Board member Matt Coleman congratulates Southview Elementary teacher Amanda Jelen as she was recognized as MEA Teacher of the Year. The Marshall Education Association and the school board also honored Nicole Wichmann (second from right) as this year’s Friend of Education.

MARSHALL — For Amanda Jelen, the connections she’s built with her students are part of what she’s loved most about being a teacher in Marshall.

“It’s the relationships that I formed,” said Jelen. “I like teaching in general, but building the relationships with the families and my coworkers is invaluable to me.”

It’s something that Jelen’s fellow educators at Marshall Public Schools noticed, too. This spring, the Marshall Education Association named Jelen their Teacher of the Year. Jelen “goes out of her way to create a personal and unique relationship with each of her students,” MEA members said.

The association also named administrative support staff member Nicole Wichmann as this year’s MEA Friend of Education. Jelen and Wichmann were both recognized at this week’s Marshall School Board meeting.

Jelen said it was hard to believe she had been chosen as Teacher of the year, because “Marshall Public Schools has so many outstanding teachers.”

“But I guess it just goes to show the relationships I formed with my colleagues really made an impact on some of them this year. It was very unexpected, but I’m very appreciative of the honor,” she said.

“I was speechless, but very humbled and honored,” Wichmann said of being named a Friend of Education. “As my husband and I tell our daughters, you know, every day is a job interview. You never know who’s watching.”

Each year, a committee of Marshall Education Association members accept nominations and choose the Teacher of the Year, said MEA President Stef Scarset. Recent Teachers of the Year have included Sam Downing, Jamie Brigger and Vickie Radloff.

The Friend of Education recognition is given to someone from the Marshall area, community or schools who goes “above and beyond” in giving their time, resources or talents, Scarset said.

“This person does their part to enhance the lives the lives of students, staff or the school district,” she said.

In nominations, MEA members said both Jelen and Wichmann stood out in their work at Southview Elementary in Marshall.

“Amanda goes above and beyond in the classroom to meet the diverse needs of her learners,” the MEA said. “She incorporates the real world into math and shows them why the skills are necessary.” One example of this was how Jelen turned her classroom into a “restaurant” where students could practice counting back change, the MEA said.

As one of the administrative support staff at Southview, Wichmann is one of the first faces people see as they enter the school.

“Not only does she work hard, but she also makes sure everyone feels welcome at Southview,” the MEA said. “Parents and staff rely on her detailed communication skills.”

Wichmann said she first started working in schools at a South Dakota district in 2006.

“I enjoyed it. And I knew that that was kind of the place where I could be,” she said. She could stay in the loop with her own children’s lives, as well as helping out other children too.

“You just build that relationship, whether it’s the parents coming in, or the children coming in the door. Whether it’s to see the nurse, or parents coming to see plays or visit their children. It’s building that relationship right away, just making them feel welcome when they come in that door,” she said.

Wichmann said one of the fun things about building relationships with kids and families was seeing students out in the community.

“For me, having them recognize me or see me in public and come up and give me a hug, that just makes me feel like I’ve done my job here,” she said.

Jelen is originally from Canby, and has been teaching for 11 years.

“I taught at Holy Redeemer for three years, in the fourth grade,” she said. After that, “I’ve been with Marshall Public Schools ever since.”

One of the things Jelen liked about teaching in Marshall was how close-knit the community was.

“I can form relationships with the families, that have lasted long after I’ve had some of their kids (in class),” she said.

In addition to forming good relationships with students, Jelen said she also hopes her students will leave the classroom as kind people.

“I can teach them how to multiply and divide, but if they leave the classroom and they know how to treat someone with respect and can talk kindly to others, then I feel like it was a successful school year,” she said.

Jelen said teaching isn’t easy.

“But one thing that has stayed true is that the kids still want to learn, and they want to come to school,” she said.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today