Each year MREA recognizes leaders who are delivering results for schools in Greater Minnesota through its Educators of Excellence, Innovation, 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 Past Award Recipients

Nominate an Educator

The nomination period is closed for the 2022 Educators of Excellence Awards. Honorees will be recognized at MREA’s Awards Ceremony & Banquet in November.
Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574 or toll free at (833) MNVOICE.

2021 Honorees

North Central

Dr. Jackie Stevens


Dr. Jackie Stevens brings an energy and enthusiasm to her classroom that is unparalleled. Her dedication to education and staff personal development is felt by every educator in the district.

See her story



Howard Van Otterloo


Howard Van Otterloo offers his students an opportunity to see 48 states before they graduate high school – an opportunity not many people experience in a lifetime.

See his story


Kristen Schwarz


Kristen Schwarz believes in teaching real-life skills to her students. She meets her students where they are, and fosters their individual interests to bring out the greatest potential in each of them.

See her story

South Central

John VanKempen

West Central Area

John VanKempen instills a curiosity in his students that fosters problem solving, team work, and fun. Focusing on relevant skills and the wonder of nature, John teaches by doing and experiencing.

See his story

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Innovation 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 Past Award Recipients

Nominate a Program

Nominations must be received by March 31. Honorees will be recognized at MREA’s Awards Ceremony & Banquet in November.
Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574.

Nominate a program

2021 Innovative Programs

NextGen Bears

Bertha-Hewitt Public Schools

The NextGen Bears program equips Bertha-Hewitt students with real-life experience and skills needed to run a successful business. From office management to ecommerce, from graphic design to running CNC machines, the NextGen Bears operates as a real business. Bertha-Hewitt students have the opportunity to be a part of the business and work with real community members and real customers every day. The program has increased attendance, engagement, and achievement of participating students and helped them experience a multitude of careers from within the walls of their high school.

Learn More

K-6 Technology and STEM Curriculum Continuum

Menahga Public Schools

The Menahga Public Schools are taking the STEM curriculum to the next level, integrating it right within every school day and leveling the playing field for boys and girls in STEM-based learning from the start. As one of the most anticipated parts of their day, the students use both their creativity and analytical skills to complete challenges and create 3D art projects from scratch. Meagha students start their technology and STEM learning in Kindergarten, improving their skill and knowledge throughout elementary school, preparing them for secondary school and beyond. What was traditionally a male-dominated class by choice is now being introduced, taught, and loved by both male and female students alike.

Learn More

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. MREA recognizes these key leaders who have demonstrated contributions in one or more of the following areas:

  • Development of leadership potential of rural youth and adults in a rural region or statewide
  • Enhancement of rural community development regionally or statewide
  • Support and assist in furthering the effectiveness of communications  and partnerships between local school districts and business/industry, governmental agencies, institutions of higher education, and/or the private sector
  • Advocacy leadership to support legislation to enhance rural school/education
  • Leadership in the development of rural education-related conferences and workshops

Nominate Today

Deadline for entries is June 1. Honorees will be recognized at MREA’s Awards Ceremony & Banquet in November.
Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574.

Download Nomination Form

2019 Honorees

Jeremy Kovash & Dr. Boyd Bradbury

When the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) raised the credentialing standards for high school teachers to teach concurrent enrollment, Kovash and Bradbury collaborated to find a solution. They led a partnership between their two organizations Lakes Country Service Cooperative and Minnesota State University Moorhead along with the Northwest Service Cooperative.

The result is 18 Online, a graduate initiative for high school teachers in Minnesota to gain the 18 credits they need to teach concurrent enrollment under the new credentialing standards – for free. Since 2017, the program has served hundreds of teachers in all six economic regions in Minnesota and as of this fall, enabled teachers to earn nearly 1,700 credits.

Read More
View Past Award Recipients

Awards News