MREA each year recognizes leaders who are delivering results for schools in Greater Minnesota through its Educators of Excellence, Profiles of Excellence and Distinguished Service awards.

Educators of Excellence Award

MREA presents the Educator of Excellence Awards to recognize, reward, and promote excellence in education that achieves the highest outcomes for Greater Minnesota students. This award honors inspiring educators who demonstrate:

  • Positive impact on students and student achievement
  • Leadership in the school, district and community
  • Innovative and creative instructional practice that impact all students
  • Collaborative efforts with fellow educators, parents, families and the community

View eligibility and nominate.

View video of 2018 awards ceremony.

Nominate an Educator

Nominations for Educators of Excellence are closed for 2019Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574 or toll free at (833) MNVOICE.

Nominations Closed

2019 Honorees


Jessica Strom

Math Teacher, Win-E-Mac Schools

Jessica Strom has flipped her high school math classroom to allow her students to become the problem solvers and teach one another. It’s been a lightbulb moment for her students and other educators who have seen it in action.

Watch her story

North Central

Ryan Larson

Dragon Academy Instructor, Pine City Public Schools

Ryan Larson started a new academy inside his school district’s middle and high schools to provide a new approach to inter-disciplinary learning. The results have been life-changing for students.

Watch his story


Tony McGee

Science Teacher, Plainview-Elgin-Milville Schools

Tony McGee teaches by walking around, asking good questions and engaging students in new, hands-on experiences once limited to schools in large metropolitan areas — like a mobile lab through a partnership with the Mayo Clinic.

Watch his story

South Central

Patrick Merrick

Science Teacher, Westbrook-Walnut Grove Schools

Patrick Merrick helps students learn what they thought they couldn’t. He believes in them and constantly develops new science classes and community projects to engage students. He brings science to life with his humor and applications.

Watch his story
View Past Award Recipients

Profile of Excellence Award

From Ada to Zumbrota, across Greater Minnesota, MREA wants to know about members’ programs that serve as examples of innovative educational opportunities for our rural students. What are the compelling practices or programs at your school or educational organization? Programs throughout MREA member districts are nominated and then selected by the MREA Board of Directors based on these core criteria:

  • Innovation — What made this program unique?
  • Benefit to Students — How did your students benefit from this program?
  • Collaboration — Who worked on developing this program with your school?
  • Ease of Adaptability — How can other districts replicate this program?

View video of 2018 awards ceremony.

Nominate a Program or Practice

Deadline for entries is  April 3, 2019. Winning programs will be recognized at MREA’s Annual Conference Banquet in November.
Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574.

Nominate a program

2018 Exemplary Programs

Restaurant & Culinary Skills Academy

Aitkin Public Schools

A desire to teach students basic food preparation skills and allow them to explore potential career opportunities led Aitkin High School to develop a Restaurant and Culinary Skills Academy.

Learn More

Learning Innovation Grant Program

Kasson-Mantorville School District

Kasson-Mantorville School District developed a Learning Innovation Grant Program to provide up to $50,000 in grants for PreK-12 instructors interested in exploring ways to deepen relationships with students, advance instruction and increase student achievement.

Learn More

Outdoor Classroom

Marshall County Central Public Schools

A lot can be learned in the outdoors. A partnership between Marshall County Central Public Schools and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is allowing students to step into nature to learn everything from science and math to social students, art and photography.

Learn More
View Past Award Recipients

Distinguished Service Award

There are many leaders working behind the scenes and on the front lines to advocate for Greater Minnesota students and rural education. Each year, MREA recognizes one of these key leaders who has demonstrated contributions in one or more of the following areas:

  • Development of leadership potential of rural youth and adults in a rural district or region
  • Enhancement of rural community development
  • Support and assist in furthering the effectiveness of communications between local school districts and business/industry, governmental agencies, and/or institutions of higher education
  • Facilitation of sharing and partnerships among schools and between schools and the private sector
  • Support of legislation to enhance rural school/education
  • Recognition and support of exemplary practices and individuals
  • Promotion and advocacy of rural education
  • Leadership in the development of rural education-related conferences and workshops

View video of 2018 awards ceremony.

Nominate an Individual

Deadline for entries is June 1, 2019. Winning programs will be recognized at MREA’s Annual Conference Banquet in November.
Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574.

Download Nomination Form

2018 Honoree

Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter

For over a decade, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter has been a dynamic voice in the education field, working to prepare future teachers and to advocate for new programs to meet needs for K-12 schools across Minnesota.

As a professor at Southwest Minnesota State University and leader on a variety of state education boards, she’s known for her innovative thinking, collaborations with multiple organizations and elevating the field of teaching.

Among her most recent accomplishments was her visioning to create and gain legislative approval for a para-to-teacher program as a non-traditional pathway for mid-career individuals to join the profession.

Read More
View Past Award Recipients

Award-Related News