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

Nominations for 2023 Educator of Excellence Awards are closed. Nominations for 2024 will open in January.
Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574.

2022 Honorees

South Central

Jennifer Maras

Morris Area School District

Playing ‘teacher’ as a child, Jennifer Maras has a passion for teaching that her students can see and feel every day. Her classroom is filled with an aura of optimism, energy, genuine care as students learn real-life business skills as well as how to be ‘the nice kid.’

See her story


Jacob Johnson

Windom Area School District

Jacob Johnson instills values known as the ‘Keys that Unlock Success’ within his students that they can carry through their whole lives. Wearing many hats at the Windom High School, Johnson models hard work and dedication for his students every day.

See his story

North Central

Dave Perry

Cloquet School District

In an alternative learning center where student engagement rates are often low and conflict is often high, Dave Perry brings an approach to the Cloquet School District that embraces tribal tradition while maximizing student engagement.

See his story


Courtney Skjerven

Thief River Falls School District

Courtney Skjerven has created a learning environment that is often the favorite part of his student’s day. Skjerven’s passion for teaching is on display each day as the Technology Teacher, a position that didn’t exist at Challenger Elementary a few years ago.

See his story

Thank You to These MREA Award Sponsors

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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 for 2023 Innovation Program Awards are closed. Nominations for 2024 will open in February.
Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574.

2022 Innovation Program Honorees

Mesabi East Environmental Education Center

Mesabi East School District

Mesabi East Environmental Education Center (ME3C) started as a program for special education students to explore hands-on plant science and has since evolved into a public-facing, student-centered program that places emphasis on hands-on instruction and sustainability for Pre-K through 12th grade students at Mesabi East Schools.

Learn More

Freshwater Produce and Décor

Freshwater Education District

What happens when you combine a beekeeper, an Industrial Arts teacher, and forward-thinking staff together with students who are struggling to see high school graduation as a priority? Freshwater Education District’s Wadena ALC gives kids innovative, hands-on experiences to help encourage non-traditional student engagement and ultimately help more students graduate.

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

Entries is currently closed.
Questions? Call the MREA Office at (320) 762-6574.


2022 Distinguished Service Award Honoree

Minnesota State Representative Paul Marquart

Rep. Paul Marquart is retiring from legislative service after 22 years in the MN State House of Representatives. During his tenure in office, Rep. Marquart was a steadfast supporter of public education and was a chief architect of several prominent advances in education funding, include two provisions specifically aimed at addressing rural inequities.

As a career educator in rural schoosl, Rep. Marquart understood the impact of education policy on local schools and was a pragmatic voice inside his caucus, guiding them against the most ineffective or problematic of unfunded mandates. He always made himself available to the public education lobby, MREA specifically, and he will be sorely missed in the legislature next year.

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View Past Award Recipients

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