Park Rapids Education Minnesota has named Shelli Walsh the 2017-18 Teacher of the Year.
A high school social studies teacher, Walsh started working in District 309 in 1985.
"She loves teaching, and she loves kids. She makes an effort to get to know the students on a personal level, and many students go to her for emotional support," wrote Tanya Miller in her nomination letter. "She listens to them without judging, offering advice as needed. The students feel safe around her, and she provides a good role model for them."
Over the course of 32 years, Walsh has worked in many different capacities at the school — classroom teacher, Teacher on Special Assignment, academic counselor, dean of students, district assessment coordinator, ALC, president of the local union and the negotiations committee.
She recently became the adviser for the We Decide club, which promotes teens making healthy choices to avoid drugs and alcohol.
"She has been involved in all levels of operation at this school, and has maintained a professional demeanor in all capacities," states Miller.
A love of learning keeps Walsh fired up about her job. She jokes that she hasn't left school since she was a 5-year-old kindergartener.
"I will have spent 50 years of my life either attending school or basically my profession," she said. " I think what has kept me going, even through the ups and downs of the profession, is I really get a kick out of kids. I love being around kids. I work with an amazing staff."
Even on those days when it seems like "the light bulbs aren't going off," Walsh says a simple "good morning," a hug or teenagers venting about their personal lives to her makes the job enormously satisfying.
"I just can't imagine doing anything else," she said.
Growing up in North Dakota, Walsh was raised by a teacher. Her mom was a high school math teacher; her grandmother an elementary teacher.
She is pleased to receive this year's award.
"It is an honor because you're selected by your peers. And so it is very nice that fellow colleagues recognize individuals that they believe are doing a good job, but, truthfully, overall, everyone should be kind of in the same boat," Walsh said, adding that all teachers are dedicated to their craft.
At the conclusion of the nomination letter, Miller wrote, "No matter what she is doing, she always puts students first. If a kid comes to her during her prep and needs to talk, she will drop everything and listen. For these reasons and many others, Shelli Walsh is Teacher of the Year."