Math teacher Michael MIller of the Detroit Lakes Area Learning Center was named as the school district's 2019 Teacher of the Year at a special ceremony on Tuesday.
He and the other five top nominees for each of the district's academic facilities were honored, including Terese LaDue, an early childhood speech pathologist at Lincoln Education Center; Susan Jordan, a 2nd grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary; Maggie Campbell, a special education teacher at Rossman Elementary; Darcie Ewert, an 8th grade teacher at Detroit Lakes Middle School; and Gail Kotschevar, a social studies teacher at Detroit Lakes High School.
Miller has been teaching math to students at the ALC since 2010. Prior to that, the Center City, Minn., native spent three years with the Peace Corps; taught at a school for Somali immigrants in Minneapolis; and also coached girls' hockey at Albert Lea, Minn.
"It feels pretty amazing to be in company like that," he said after being presented with the award. "I'm speechless."
Later, he had a few more things to say, noting that his inspiration to pursue education as a career came from "my 11th grade chemistry teacher - who was also my assistant hockey coach."
"He loved what he did," Miller added. "He made teaching fun."
Miller also noted that he first became acquainted with Detroit Lakes through one of his former girls hockey charges, who had attended the International Hockey School here one summer.
"I also have relatives in Moorhead, so when the job opening came up here, I applied," he said. "Working at the ALC felt like a pretty good fit for me."
Now, after eight years in the district, "I couldn't picture teaching anywhere else," he added. "I enjoy working with my colleagues, and I love my job."
Miller said that one of the things he enjoys most about his work at the ALC is "no two days are the same... you really experience the gamut of emotions."
Tuesday's gathering was the 16th annual Michelle Harris Teacher of the Year celebration, named after a former Detroit Lakes Teacher of the Year, who passed away in 2010 after a valiant battle with cancer.
Prior to to introducing the nominees, and presenting the award, the festivities began with acknowledgement of several teachers who were retiring at the end of the year - TOY nominees LaDue and Ewert among them - as well as past recipients of the Detroit Lakes TOY award, which began in 2003.
Each year, the six different Detroit Lakes public school facilities nominate several teachers for the honor, then vote to select one of them to attend the Teacher of the Year celebration. The names of the six nominees are were placed in a single container, from which the 2018 award recipient, Vicki Welke, drew Miller's name.