Three dedicated teachers chosen as 2017 Educator of Excellence award winners

Education Minnesota-Lakeville honored three teachers in the district with its 2017 Educator of Excellence award for their daily dedication to students and families and for exemplifying the highest standards and qualities of a professional educator.


During the April 25 regular school board meeting, the awards were presented to Melissa Mills, an early childhood special education educator on the infant/toddler intervention team at Crystal Lake Education Center; John Cates, a teacher for the COMPASS Program at the Area Learning Center; and Patty English, who teaches social studies at Lakeville South High School.


In Mills’ role, she has become much more than an early childhood special education teacher, according to the nomination by Kim Jirik, an early childhood speech pathologist at Crystal Lake Education Center. Mills has spent years collaborating and learning from her colleagues, now wearing many hats while working with families. Throughout her day, Mills acts as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist and a social worker. She also is a mentor to her colleagues, becoming trained as a family-guided routines-based interventionist and sharing her knowledge with colleagues, according to her nomination letter.


Cates was nominated by LSHS math teacher Deb Arnold and Area Learning Center teacher  Erin Mulvany-Mankowski for continuously going above and beyond in his position. Arnold and Mulvany-Mankowski wrote Cates  lives for teaching and his students; always referring to them as “his kids” and places their wellbeing and education above all else. Cates often will be the first to arrive and the last to leave the Area Learning Center, gives up his prep time to help students, and at least once a month, he makes a home-cooked lunch for his students simply because he knows, for some, it is a rarity to eat a home-cooked meal. In addition, Cates has helped create a learning environment that encourages students to strive for the best within themselves and support each other. Students are also free to be themselves and feel truly accepted, according to his nomination letter.


“I have been a team teacher for a very long time. Since 2000, Ive been a part of a team. Im not a big fan of individual awards because an individual never does it themselves,” said Cates. “I accept this [award] on behalf of all the people Ive worked with in the past and work with now and hopefully will work with in the future.”


LSHS math teacher Kari Dykhoff nominated English for her engaging personality and teaching style make learning enjoyable for students by providing engaging and interactive lessons, inserting humor when necessary and ensuring quality student behavior, positive study habits, and an overall sense of respect in the classroom.  She further grows her relationship with students by building a strong rapport and establishing trusting relationships. She has a niche for developing those relationships by taking interest in their lives and involvement in activities outside of school. English maintains an open and honest communication with parents and students alike, keeping them informed of what is going on in the classroom regarding curriculum, discipline and grade, according to her nomination letter.
“Im not alone in this. [The award] is humbling. Theres so many great teachers and so many teachers that get excited and that spreads to the kids my own four [kids] in the district,” English said. “We have a great staff, a great community. The kids are the easy part. I love the kids and I think you can see that. They make me cry, they make me laugh, that part is the easy part of my job. But, seeing what John and Melissa and [everyone else] is doing is fun — thats the great part of teaching. We are in a wonderful profession.

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