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Lake Park-Audubon Teacher of the Year

ULEN NATIVE Stacey Stalberger was named as 2010-11 Teacher of the Year for Lake Park-Audubon Schools earlier this month. Stalberger has been a first grade instructor at LP-A Elementary in Audubon for eight years; before that, she taught third grade, and also did her student teaching at Audubon.

One morning earlier this month, as Stacey Stalberger was getting ready for another day of teaching her first grade students at Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School, she got a bit of a jolt while listening to the morning announcements.

Her friend and fellow first grade teacher, Kristen Frank, broke the news that Stalberger had been named as LP-A's 2010-11 Teacher of the Year.

"I can't believe I was actually chosen," said Stalberger, a teacher at LP-A for the past eight years. "The LP-A Teacher of the Year Award is a huge honor. There are so many deserving teachers... it was an unexpected surprise.

"I'll work hard to continue to the tradition of excellent, caring educators at LP-A," she continued.

According to LP-A Elementary Principal Sam Skaaland, Stalberger has already done a great job in that regard.

"Mrs. Stalberger is known for her kind and assertive manner in the classroom, and her continual search for knowledge to enhance educational opportunities for her students," he said in the press release announcing the award. "We know that she will be a great representative for all of the teachers at LP-A."

Skaaland added that Stalberger "has been instrumental in the development of the RTI (Response to Intervention) instructional model at LP-A, and with the dynamic instructional technique of reading rotations in our first and second grade classrooms."

Additionally, the Reading Rotation method involves a daily rotation of students between different reading instructors.

"Many people -- including classroom teachers, a teacher and a director of Special Education, a child psychologist, our principal, and many support professionals -- have been and will continue to work together to make this a reading and learning success for all students," Stalberger said.

The program centers around the "Big Five" components of reading, as identified by the National Reading Panel ( Phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

Those five areas were used as the basis for creating a rotation among a team of four teachers "that will ensure instruction for every child in every area," Stalberger said.

"The team of four teachers allowed us to create small, flexible and similar groups of students (10-12 per group) as opposed to a large group of 17 to 24 all at different levels in their reading journey," she continued.

"Each group receives intense and focused instruction in each of the 'Big Five' areas every day during the reading rotation. These groups change about every month. Each group travels together to a fluency teacher, a guided reading teacher, a phonics/phonemic awareness teacher, and a vocabulary teacher.

"The reading rotation has the kids move between the teachers because movement helps long-term memory formation," Stalberger continued. "The students are able to keep their attention on their learning better also, since every 15-20 minutes they get to do something new -- although connected -- in a new room, with a new teacher.

"Breaking the reading curriculum into specific areas has also allowed us (the team of teachers) to use each others' strengths in these areas for the good of all students."

A native of rural Ulen, Stalberger and her sisters (she is the second of four daughters) were educated at Ulen-Hitterdal Schools. After graduating, she attended Central Lakes Community College in Brainerd for two years, earning an associate of arts degree.

"I decided to pursue an education career during my sophomore year at Central Lakes College, when a service-learning professor encouraged me to help start up a new work study job that was created to assist struggling readers at the local elementary schools," she said. "I guess I became hooked into this great profession after just a few days at the elementary."

After completing her associate degree, Stalberger transferred to Minnesota State University Moorhead, where she completed her teaching degree in 2001. She followed that up by earning a master's degree through a learning community offered by Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

"My time with LP-A began during my last year of college," she said. "I was placed in Mr. Sam Skaaland's sixth grade class for my student teaching. It was a great experience, at a great school.

"I knew that if LP-A ever had an opening, I would definitely apply. After spending a year as a substitute teacher for a couple districts, I was thankfully hired as a classroom teacher by LP-A.  I have been teaching for the district and loving it ever since.

"I taught third grade for one year and am currently in my eighth year of teaching first grade," Stalberger continued. "Teaching first grade is really a team effort at LP-A. My colleagues, Kristen Frank and Maria Amundson, do just as much to make this grade awesome...

"We share ideas, goals, lessons, and help each other through all the ups and downs of teaching. First grade is packed full of very difficult and rewarding challenges. I'm honored to be a part of the special academic time when many students become readers and writers.

"The most important thing I've learned about being a first grade teacher is to always remember to have patience."

When she's not teaching, Stalberger spends as much time as she can with her family, which includes Brian, her husband of 11 years, and their two daughters, Shadaisa, 9, and Brynn, 6.

"As a family we enjoy spending time at the lake in the summer as well as being involved in summer camps and sports," Stalberger said.

"Our school year is filled with school work, projects and keeping busy!"

The family lives in the country, east of Ulen, and both daughters attend Ulen-Hitterdal Elementary, where Shadaisa is enrolled in 4th grade, and Brynn is in 1st grade.

"They both say they want to grow up to be teachers," Stalberger said.

If they do, they'll have a great role model to emulate.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454