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Wendy Reuer, Published April 28 2014

High school math instructor named West Fargo teacher of the year

WEST FARGO – High school math teacher Randy Holzkamm sat silently in the auditorium, shaking his head in disbelief when his name was announced as the 2013-14 West Fargo Public School District teacher of the year Monday.

The longtime math teacher and coach who had to have a special key code made because he routinely showed up at school early to prepare for his students was adamant that he wasn’t “exceptional” enough to deserve the honor.

“I never thought of myself as someone who does big things,” Holzkamm said Monday. “I feel very unworthy of this.”

But the multitude of fellow teachers who nominated him for this year’s award disagreed. Superintendent David Flowers said they all agreed Holzkamm embodied the qualities that make a teacher great and demonstrated those principles every day.

Flowers said the teachers wrote that Holzkamm patiently explains difficult concepts to his students. Holzkamm strives to challenge high-achieving students while following a pace that can help those struggling in his classes.

“He makes learning a really boring subject fun,” wrote one teacher when nominating Holzkamm for the award.

Above all, Flowers said, Holzkamm consistently shows students he cares about them and believes in them.

“His calm composure and reassurance encourage many students to persevere and builds their mathematical confidence,” Flowers said.

The qualities of an excellent teacher that Holzkamm demonstrates are the same ones that he wrote about when applying for a teaching position in West Fargo in 1990, Flowers said.

“I’m not sure I knew at that time what I thought it took to be a good teacher, but I’m not sure I could write something better now,” Holzkamm said. “If you understand the students are the most important thing at the center of everything, then you can be a great teacher.”

The Hillsboro native has been a teacher in West Fargo for 24 years after starting his career in South Dakota. Holzkamm has also served as head volleyball coach for 12 years, is an assistant track coach and has long been involved in international student programs.

Holzkamm’s sister, Beth Mammenga, and her husband, Roger Mammenga, along with his daughter, Jessica, and son-in-law, Jeff Morris, helped surprise Holzkamm when the announcement was made at West Fargo High School on Monday. A group of former students also attended the surprise ceremony.

“He is so humble, but he is everything that they said,” Roger Mammenga said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530