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She's got her work down to a science: High school chemistry teacher, Vicki Welke, named DL's 2018 Teacher of the Year

Detroit Lakes High School chemistry teacher Vicki Welke is Detroit Lakes’ 2018 Teacher of the Year. She has been with the school for 23 years. (Marie Johnson / Tribune)1 / 2
Detroit Lakes School District’s nominees for 2018 Teacher of the Year were, left to right: Vicki Welke, Detroit Lakes High School; Kristi Joppru, Rossman Elementary; Courtney Henderson, Detroit Lakes Middle School; Robbie Cox, Roosevelt Elementary; and Nate Anderson, Detroit Lakes Area Learning Center. (Marie Johnson / Tribune) 2 / 2

Vicki Welke was named Detroit Lakes School District's 2018 Teacher of the Year at a special ceremony on Tuesday. She and other top nominees from each of the district's schools were honored, including Kristi Joppru, Courtney Henderson, Robbie Cox and Nate Anderson.

Welke has been teaching science at Detroit Lakes High School for the past 23 years. She said she's currently teaching chemistry.

"It's a little overwhelming," she said of being named Teacher of the Year. "The staff is so amazing that, that they would nominate me just feels wonderful. I work with a great staff. They're so skilled at what they do."

Welke was nominated for the award by an anonymous colleague and then selected as the high school's top nominee by a vote among the staff. The colleague wrote in Welke's nomination form that, "Vicki cares about her students and teaches with excellence in her subject area."

The writer then goes on to relay a story about a time Welke brought a struggling student a homemade cake and quilt for the student's birthday: "Vicki made her feel so special and happy. Immediately the student put the quilt around her shoulders and hugged Vicki. Her smile was one I will never forget. This is the kind of teacher and person Vicki is and what makes her an excellent candidate for 'Teacher of the Year.'"

Similar comments were made about the district's other nominees, suggesting Welke wasn't the only excellent candidate, and that she's right about working with a "great staff."

Kristi Joppru, for example, was called "an incredible teacher, wonderful colleague, and a hard-working life-long learner... a mentor to many and a huge asset to our school," by the colleague who nominated her. Joppru is a teacher at Rossman Elementary.

At Roosevelt Elementary, Robbie Cox was the nominee. He was described as having "a positive outlook" and as someone who treats his students like family: "Robbie goes out of his way to make students and staff members feel special. He walks through the halls with a mission to build relationships."

Courtney Henderson was the nominee for the middle school. A peer wrote of her, "Courtney is a stalwart and hard-working teacher in our building who quietly goes about her work without ever a complaint... Courtney is able to address concerns in a positive way, and her feedback to students and peers is consistently clear and framed in a constructive approach."

Nate Anderson, a counselor at the Alternative Learning Center, was this year's nominee there: "He has a great personality and is really able to connect with our students. He's fun, happy and adds laughter to our building every day."

The celebration — the 15th Annual Michelle Harris Teacher of the Year Celebration, named after the former Detroit Lakes Teacher of the Year who passed away from cancer in 2010 — was held the evening of March 6 at Event 34. There's a different theme for the celebration every year, and this year's theme was baseball.

"We are here today to celebrate the teaching profession, each other, and the 'home run' nominees that we have this year," stated one of the first speakers, Roosevelt teacher Courtney Qualley-Landor.

The agenda included several acknowledgements: of the celebration's coordinators; of several notable upcoming retirements among the Detroit Lakes teaching staff; of past recipients of the Teacher of the Year award; and of course of this year's nominees and winner.

Each school nominated several teachers for the honor, then voted and selected one person to send to the celebration. Those nominees' names were placed in a crackerjack container (to go with the baseball theme), from which Welke's name was picked to be this year's Teacher of the Year.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 3-year-old son and baby daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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