Great teachers are the key to great classrooms. But even the best teachers understand the power of having great resources available to help them. Roger Ebnet of Northside Elementary School in Benson, Minnesota, brings the two together in helping to make his school and community a great place to learn and live.

For nearly 30 years Ebnet has invested in the individual success of each of his second grade students and the community they all live in.

Each year he organizes a “Country School” where students spend a day in an old country school in town, complete with everyone dressing the part. Another day is set aside for grandparents to come to school with their grandkids. All year long he operates a classroom store where students can purchase items as a reward for earning points for academic and social successes.

MREA honors Ebnet as a 2017 Educator of Excellence for his commitment to community partnerships and going beyond the classroom to give students an engaging learning opportunities.

“Roger’s ability to get gain the funds to provide unforgettable experiences to his students and others in the community is rare,” MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan said. “He’s a teacher who’s truly invested in his community and the return has been high.”

In 2013, Ebnet led the way to receive a $10,000 gift from Target that brought celebrity visits by former NFL star Donald Driver, Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas (among others), and a concert by Country music superstar Luke Bryan. In years since, he helped raise $25,000 to improve the local baseball fields, and twice rallied folks to win a State Farm contest netting $50,000 over two years.

“My community has given me so much,” Ebnet said. “I feel an obligation to use my skills and talents to help it remain the thriving community that I want it to be.”

When the town announced it would no longer organize a long-standing community event known as “Kid Day,” he took over and “Kid Day” continues.

“It is easy to see that Roger Ebnet demonstrates excellence in the classroom, in the district, and the community,” Benson Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Laumeyer said. “Roger has selflessly worked to improve his school and community. He truly embodies the positive characteristics of a rural educator of excellence.”