Pierz media center director named Teacher of the Year

JoAnn Dahl, media center specialist at Pioneer Elementary School in Pierz, is putting on a happy face, but not because summer vacation is around the corner. In a surprise presentation Tuesday, Dahl was named Teacher of the Year by Principal Galen Swoboda and Wal-Mart associates in appreciation for excellence in education.

Darci Waytashek, community involvement coordinator for the Little Falls Wal-Mart, presented Dahl with a plaque, a $500 educational grant for the school and the familiar blue and yellow happy face vest. She was one of 3,000 teachers this year from around the country to receive the recognition.

Dahl hasn’t had time to decide how to spend the money, but has some pet library projects in mind. “It came as a complete surprise to me,” she said. “I was flabbergasted. It’s a particular honor for me because I work in a school with so many superior teachers. So to be selected from this group is really an honor.” The announcement was made at an early morning faculty meeting.

A long-time employee, Dahl started with the Pierz School District in 1980 as a speech therapist. In that job she visited all district buildings, including parochial schools in Lastrup, Buckman and Pierz. Eventually she returned to graduate school for certification as a media specialist. When Pioneer Elementary opened in 1991, she got the media center position.

As such, Dahl sees students in grades kindergarten through six at least once a week in the library or computer lab. She impersonates an array of storybook characters for various class units to make reading come alive.

“I love to read to children and share good stories,” she said. “Another thing I love to see are kids learning and problem-solving in the computer lab.” It’s very satisfying to watch students creating things with technology and then sharing the knowledge, with classmates, she explained.

“Teachers have one of the most challenging/and critical jobs in our country,” said Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, lnc. ‘The Teacher of the Year Award program is our associates’ way of letting teachers know how much we appreciate their contributions to the education of our youth.”

The program honors teachers in communities served by Wal-Mart who distinguish themselves as mentors, motivators and innovators in education, pointed out Waytashek. “Since the program began in 1996, the company has saluted more than 10,700 Teachers of the Year, contributing $5.1 million in education grants to local schools.” The program is part of the company’s “Good Works” initiative aimed at empowering associates to serve the needs of their communities.

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