Andrew Hopkins seeks to transport his students to places around the world to discover how life and experiences change with geography.

Through the power of technology, eighth grade students in Waseca experience the challenge of climbing the highest points and the sights and sounds of cities they once only saw on a map.

Hopkins infuses sophisticated real-time databases and Geographic Information Systems into the lessons to help students uncover patterns. He weaves together manual mapping and technology-driven activities to engage students in the stories behind the places on Earth.

His students leave class with a greater sense of wonder about the world. Students shared their virtual journeys and how it sparked an interest in new places and a desire to travel.

“If I’m not reaching a student in my classroom, I need to find a new way to do it,” Hopkins said. “I need to find something different or change something to try to reach that one student. Because each student we don’t reach is an opportunity missed in our classrooms.”

Relationships First

After serving as a student teacher at Waseca High School, Hopkins knew it was where he wanted to teach. So he willingly set aside his passion for social studies to join the school district as a Special Education teacher. In that role, he learned the importance of personal relationships in learning and achievement.

“When students feel like they have an adult who is not in their immediate family that’s trusted, they can go to and and who cares about them, their achievement goes up so much,” Hopkins said.

Now, as the only geography teacher for eighth grade, he has made it his mission to intentionally connect with each student. In those moments, he seeks to make them feel like the most important thought on his mind.

“He has a great sense of humor,” said Jeanne Swanson, who recently retired as principal of Waseca Junior & Senior High School. “He builds relationships with both adults and students, and he puts kids first.”

Hopkins has been a leader in his school, a go-to technology integration coach and the person looked to when a problem needs to be solved. He comes alongside his fellow educators, listens, learns and collaborates on solutions.

Educator of Excellence

MREA honored Hopkins as a 2020 Educator of Excellence for his innovation, collaboration and unwavering commitment to get results for his students. See more stories of Educators for Excellence.