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Porozinski named Park Rapids Teacher of the Year

Gina Porozinski was named the Park Rapids Teacher of the Year. She is in her 30th year of teaching and is currently a 4th grade teacher at Century Elementary. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)

Gina Porozinski has taken on a few different educational roles during her teaching career in Park Rapids.

Now in her 30th year, Porozinski is back in a full-time classroom teaching 4th grade after the last seven years as a Title 1 teacher. The move was because of the large number of students entering 4th grade this school year and by adding a section the district was able to maintain a smaller classroom size. Porozinski expects to return to Title 1 next year.

Park Rapids Education Minnesota named Porozinski the 2016-17 Teacher of the Year.

"It was nice to be recognized by my peers," she said. "This is an award that could have gone to numerous people."

Porozinski graduated from Moorhead State University and began her teaching career in 1987 where she taught two years of kindergarten. After spending one year teaching pre-kindergarten abroad in Italy, Porozinski returned to Park Rapids to teach 4th grade for 15 years. She taught one year of kindergarten in 2005-06, 2nd grade from 2006 to 2009, then Title 1 from 2009-2016 before taking the added 4th grade class this year.

Her willingness to go where most needed led, in part, to being chosen by her peers for Teacher of the Year. The nomination statement read, "Porozinski is a striking role model for both staff and students in the Park Rapids School District. She never flinches at taking on any additional tasks. Gina will easily change her professional course and focus when the needs of the district direct her to do so. Maintaining high academic rigor for students and raising performance expectations are her goals. She works to sustain a classroom atmosphere that promotes student development of a work ethic that will serve students well both now and in the future. Gina has contributed greatly to the maintenance of the Leveled Library at Century as well as to the Targeted Services Program. Gina Porozinski is a great asset to this district."

As a Title 1 teacher, Porozinski worked with small groups of students from various grade levels to improve their reading and math. She said working with a lower teacher to student ratio and small groups is nice to help students learn.

She enjoys having her own classroom again this year as it brings more variety of subjects to the curriculum, particularly social studies and science.

"That variety is nice. You get to know the students a little better so that is fun," she said. "I get to work with them throughout the day."

Whether she is working as Title 1 or in one classroom full-time, Porozinski enjoys being an educator.

"I went into elementary education because I like working with kids. It was a natural career to go into for me. One of the best things about teaching is watching kids learn and grow academically."

After 30 years in education, certainly things change.

Porozinski says one of the biggest changes to education has to be technology in the classroom. "That's probably the biggest change I've noticed over 30 years," she said. "Kids are very good with technology. One of the challenges is what kind of technology to use to keep up with learning."

New to Century Elementary this year is a program called Project Lead the Way, which offers hands-on learning where, Porozinski describes, students do a lot of creating. They work through problems and discover what works and what doesn't work, then adjust the project themselves.

"The kids really enjoy the hands-on experiments," she said.

Porozinski says she has had a variety of experiences with different grade levels throughout her career and that "keeps it interesting." There are always challenges in the classroom because student abilities are different.

Families are busy and kids seem to be involved in more activities at an earlier age these days. Porozinski says it's important for parents to work with their children at home on reading and finishing homework because it definitely impacts how the students do at school.

Teaching is a rewarding career, she said.

"I think you don't always know how much you're impacting their lives, but hope you teach them to work hard," she said. "We want to get kids to be hard workers. That's a key goal for helping them be successful."

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