High school math teacher Cami Brand is the 2020-21 Park Rapids Education Minnesota teacher of the year.

Brand has taught at Park Rapids Area High School since 1997. She previously taught for three years at Walker.

This past school year, she taught algebra II for juniors and seniors, advance algebra II for sophomores, and college algebra for juniors and seniors seeking credit through M State. She also taught math one hour a day and two nights a week at the Alternative Learning Center.

In past years, she also coached a math team that went to competitions at Bemidji State University.

In her nomination for the award, business teacher Angie Kuehn said Brand “has done a great job of educating herself with some of the latest technologies to make the transition to distance learning, to hybrid and back to in-person, as smooth as possible for her students. I appreciate her ability to motivate her students to push themselves beyond what they think they can do.

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“She is also available to her students when they need some extra help to be their best. Cami has also been a huge asset to the [Alternative Learning Center] program and has helped countless students earn their math credits. She is an excellent teacher!”

Brand earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Mayville State University in North Dakota, and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction through the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.

“I’ve always loved math,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do something with math. I didn’t really decide until I was in college to go the math teaching route.”

When asked how math will be relevant to her students’ lives, Brand said, “I tell them that math teaches you how to think. You’re going to have to think and problem solve every day of your life. You might not be doing exactly some of the same concepts and skills that we’re working on today, but it’s teaching you how to think and persevere.”

Brand reported that one of her students in the 2021 graduating class plans to become a math teacher. “That was something that made me pretty proud, to have a hand in that,” she said.

As for being named “teacher of the year,” she said, “That is quite an honor, because I teach with a lot of really wonderful people, a great staff, a supportive administration. It’s nice to be recognized by them.”

Asked what she did to deserve the award, Brand struggled to answer for a moment, then said, “I adapted well to the online, distance learning stuff. … Kids like to come to my classroom to get help with math.”

A decorative plaque given to her last year by a graduating student says, “The influence of a good teacher can never be erased.”

“I feel like it’s important to build relationships with kids,” said Brand. “That is a key component to success, to build that relationship first, so that a kid does want to come to your class and perform, do the things that you ask them to do.”

She said one of the challenges of distance learning was that it was harder to build those relationships. “So, I’m very thankful that we’ve been able to be all together since January, here, so that you can work on having those relationships.”

Brand lives with her husband, Craig. She has two grown children, McKenna and Chase. She said she looks forward to the summer, when she plans to relax by the lake and do some reading before the excitement of a new school year begins.