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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 20 2013

English teacher at West Fargo High named ND's Teacher of the Year

WEST FARGO – Aaron Knodel added a little extra oomph to the Packers’ Homecoming Week.

The West Fargo High School English language arts teacher earned a foot-stomping standing ovation Friday from a gymnasium full of students, staff and dignitaries as he was named North Dakota’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

“I am unbelievably humbled and honored to receive this award,” Knodel told the crowd.

“The students are what make this job truly amazing,” he said, urging students and teachers alike to hold on to the joy of learning.

“This is really one of the most prestigious awards that we have in North Dakota,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. “I was so impressed to see how proud the students are to see that they have the teacher of the year” in their building.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler praised Knodel’s ability to help the full spectrum of students.

“You have excelled at reaching students at all levels, not just the shining stars,” Baesler said. “I applaud your passion and humility.”

West Fargo Superintendent David Flowers said Knodel is a leader not just for students, but for others in his profession.

“His real gift is the influence he had had on thousands of people,” Flowers said.

In February, Knodel was named the West Fargo School District’s 2013-14 Teacher of the Year.

His name will now be forwarded to the national Teacher of the Year competition.

Other finalists for the honor were Julie Jaeger, a kindergarten through fifth-grade gifted education teacher from Minot Public Schools; Debra Nelson, a science teacher from Bottineau High School; and Kristi Shanenko, an English language arts teacher from Valley City Junior-Senior High School.

“I feel deeply touched that I can represent the nobility of this profession and all the people who are in the trenches doing this with me every day,” Knodel said.

“My goal is to be a spokesperson in this profession,” and to work on ways “to keep great teachers in the classroom.”

Knodel has taught at West Fargo High School since 2004, though he also student-taught there in 2001 and taught at Fargo’s private Shanley High School for a time.

He teaches senior English, advanced placement language and composition, debate and argumentation, and the fundamentals of public speaking.

Knodel also advises the West Fargo High School Student Congress, and the Trivia Team.

He is an adjunct professor at North Dakota State University and the North Dakota State College of Science, teaching public speaking and how to teach writing. He is also president of the North Dakota Council of Teachers of English.

The Beulah (N.D.) High School graduate has a bachelor’s degree in English from NDSU and a master’s in curriculum instruction from St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

Greg Grooters, principal of Sheyenne 9th Grade Center, said Knodel is dedicated to his students.

“Like any great teacher, when Aaron turns around, there are a lot of students behind him,” Grooters said.

Waiting in line to shake Knodel’s hand was Gary Clark, the former principal of West Fargo High School, now retired.

“I hired that man. I’m very proud of him. He’s simply outstanding,” Clark said. “Whatever his hand touches turns to gold.”

Also attending the ceremony was Andrea Noonan, a West Fargo School District staff member who was the state’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583