A Waconia teacher is among the educators named as finalists for Education Minnesota’s prestigious Teacher of the Year award.

Alyssa Larsen is one of 12 finalists for the 2018 designation. Larsen – who teaches social studies, human geography and AP world history at Waconia High School – said that being nominated for the award is a validation of the passion she has had for teaching since childhood.

“I was nominated by a couple students as well as a fellow teacher, so being named a finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year is acknowledgement that my students and colleagues can see my love of teaching,” she said. “I cannot see myself doing anything else and am passionate about getting students to become lifelong learners. My hope is that through this process, I can meet more individuals who share my passion for education and learn how to make my classroom and lessons more effective.”

Larsen is in her fifth year as an educator in Waconia, but has been teaching for a total of eight years, having started her career in North Dakota before moving to Edina and, ultimately, to Waconia.

Larsen said a big component of her teaching philosophy is to connect her students to the lesson at hand.

“As such, my first philosophy is to always teach relevance before specific content. Before a student is able to learn about patterns of labor migration in the pre-Industrial era or compare and contrast the World Wars, students must first be invested in the course,” Larsen said. “In order to achieve this, it is crucial to understand and know my students. After doing so, I can then consistently connect what I teach to their lives.”

Larsen said she also incorporates alternative-learning techniques into her lessons.

“Whether it be interpreting primary sources, participating in a game, or simulating major events, students often learn more from each other than from direct teaching,” Larsen said.

Waconia schools superintendent Pat Devine said that Larsen’s nomination comes as no surprise to those that know her and her teaching style.

“Ms. Larsen is a great choice and is an excellent ambassador for all teachers. Alyssa represents the quality of educators that we have at ISD ONE10,” Devine said. “She possesses all the characteristics you want in a teacher … she is very knowledgeable in her content, she builds fantastic relationship and inspires students to learn, and she is always improving her skill set to stay in tune with the best teaching practices. When it comes to great teachers, Alyssa Larsen is as good as you get.”

Larson said that the opportunity to work alongside other great teachers in the school district is an honor in itself, and the nomination for Teacher of the Year is a compliment to all the district’s educators.

“I feel I still have so much to learn, but I am honored to represent Waconia Public Schools. I consider myself fortunate to work alongside so many amazing teachers, staff, administrators, and students. My colleagues constantly teach me new skills and methods to improve my classroom and instructional practices,” Larsen said. “There are so many educators in ISD 110 that deserve the title Teacher of Year, as they are making an incredibly positive impact in our students’ lives!”

The Education Minnesota Teacher of the Year will be announced on May 6.

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