Area boasts two candidates for Teacher of the Year

David Wicklund
David Wicklund
John Mitsch
John Mitsch

Two Bulletin area teachers were announced as candidates for Education Minnesota’s 2016 Teacher of the Year award Feb. 3. 

While the field of teachers is large — 114 candidates in all, including pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and Adult Basic Education teachers — John Mitsch in District 282 and David Wicklund in District 621 both have a chance at the award.

For those ‘light bulb moments’

Mitsch, a sixth- and seventh-grade math teacher, has worked at St. Anthony Middle School for nine years.

Before that, Mitsch, 36, spent two years teaching at a private school in Coon Rapids and he began his teaching career in the western states. 

He said he moved to Phoenix, Arizona after graduating from Concordia University-St. Paul, where he studied education and earned a master’s degree in education technology. 

Originally from the Como neighborhood of St. Paul, Mitsch currently lives in Roseville with his wife Marlena and 1-year-old son, Eli.

“Being in a small district like this has its advantages, in the sense of being able to wear many different hats and to be a part of many different things,” Mitsch said.

When not at home or in the classroom, he spends time coaching freshman and sophomore basketball at St. Anthony High School. Mitsch is also a negotiator for the school district’s teachers union.

“You don’t expect these kinds of things,” he said of the award nomination. “You just kind of work and keep going.” 

But that work, he said, is worth it.

“I like helping kids become better people every -day,” he said. “It’s not always all about the math. It’s about kids finding success — those light bulb moments where they discover that they can do something, and be proud of themselves.” He especially enjoys “those little celebrations.” 

‘Alongside amazing teachers’

Wicklund, 36, works as a student services assistant at Pinewood Elementary School in Mounds View.

“I work a lot on school culture, trying to create a positive school climate and vibe across the building,” he said.

Wicklund explained that he supports teachers and students alike. He does character building sessions in classrooms, but also helps individual students as well. 

This is Wicklund’s first year in his current position. Prior to being the student services assistant, he taught special education at Pinewood for three years. 

And before working at Pinewood, he was a third-grade teacher at a charter school in Minneapolis, which is where he grew up and currently resides with his wife Julie, who’s also a teacher, and their two kids Eleanor, 4, and Everrett, 6 months. 

“I love my job,” Wicklund said. “I work alongside amazing teachers every day, and amazing kids, too. It’s super rewarding to have a positive impact on this community in Mounds View. It’s exciting,” he added.

Wicklund has been working in schools for 13 years and studied education at Eastern University in Philidelphia. He earned a master’s degree in special education from the University of Minnesota.

“I think this school is a pretty amazing place,” he said of Pinewood. “We have a lot of amazing teachers working hard here.”

About the award

Candidate nominations were accepted in October and November last year. Nomination criteria included holding a bachelor’s degree and a Minnesota teaching license, at least three years experience teaching and the intention to keep teaching through the 2016-2017 school year.

Beyond those specific details, nominees for the award, per an Education Minnesota release, were expected to be “someone who motivates and inspires students for a lifetime.”

The winner of Minnesota’s 2016 Teacher of the Year award will be named during a ceremony at the Radisson Blu Mall of America hotel on May 15. Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year then becomes the state’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year.

Minnesota has fared well nationally — Education Minnesota says the state is only second to California in national wins, having done so four times. 

Jesse Poole can be reached at or at 651-748-7815. Follow him on Twitter @JPooleNews


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