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Making a tribute to teachers

Valley Crossing Community School kindergarten and first grade teachers Mike Wallus, Kari Pidde and Janet McDowell received the Tribute to Teachers award, and $500, on June 1 by RBC Wealth Management.

Teachers often go unrecognized for the amount of time and work they put into educating children.

However, three teachers at Valley Crossing Community School -- Mike Wallus, Kari Pidde and Janet McDowell -- received that recognition last week when they were presented the Tribute to Teacher award by RBC Wealth Management.

"It was very overwhelming," Pidde said. "You don't go into teaching to be recognized."

On June 1 Martha Baumbach, the director of Community Affairs with RBC Wealth Management, presented the teachers with a $500 check for classroom materials.

Team members said they are hoping to use the funds for books or possibly a document camera.

Additionally, each teacher received tickets to a Minnesota Gophers men's hockey game where they will be recognized on the ice for their achievements in teaching.

"Kari, Mike and Janet stood out for their remarkable teamwork and contributions to the lives of their students, and we are thrilled to honor them as a Tribute to Teachers winner," Baumbach said in a press release.

The annual contest invites students and parents to submit nominations honoring their favorite teacher, explaining how he or she has made a difference in their own or in their child's academic experience.

This year, over 40 nominations were received.

"You don't expect to be thanked for a lot of things, so it kind of feels weird," Wallus said. "But, it does kind of validate what we do."

Wallus, Pidde and McDowell, the kindergarten and first grade teaching team, were nominated for the Tribute to Teachers award by 19 different parents at Valley Crossing Community School.

"You kind of feel like a proud parent -- it's a really proud moment," Valley Crossing principal Mary Anderson said. "It's nice when staff is recognized, especially when it is parent-driven, because that really makes it extra special."

Bringing out the potential

Woodbury resident Jenn Zimmerman, who works for RBC Wealth Management, heard about the Tribute to Teachers award her company was handing out to teachers and she immediately thought of the Wallus-Pidde-McDowell team at Valley Crossing.

They have an amazing way of seeing the potential in every single child," she said. "It's really getting to know each individual child and bringing the best out of them."

RBC Wealth Management is a financial services and personal investment services firm with several Twin Cities branch offices.

Zimmerman took it upon herself to send out an e-mail to all of the parents informing them of the award and the nomination process and 19 nominations later the three teachers were honored.

"All I did was send a link and everyone else took their own initiative to nominate them because they are just such a great team -- they're great teachers," she said. "They just lay this foundation to help these kids succeed."

Wallus, Pidde and McDowell have been working together as a team for the past seven years.

"We learn a lot from each other," Pidde said.

Wallus said is favorite aspect of teaching is being able to see the excitement when a student understands something.

"When you see the light in their eyes when they finally understand something for the first time," he said, "those moments are just awesome."

McDowell and Pidde said they love the relationships they form and how no two days are the same.

"Every day is a new day." McDowell said. "You never know what the day is going to bring you and it's exciting."

Anderson said the team's strengths are being able to work together as a team.

"They play off each other's strengths really well," she said. "They are very different personalities and they bring to the table different areas of strength and I think they utilize that really well.

"They get a long really well and they're fun, they like kids -- they like all of the excitement of the little people."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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